Students have lost their battle over escalating tuition fees after MPs voted in favour of the controversial cap rise from £3,290 to £9,000.
Three ministerial aides – two Lib Dems and one Conservative – resigned as the Government’s majority of 83 was cut to a mere 21. And in a blow to Nick Clegg’s authority, a split in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat alliance saw 27 coalition MPs rebel.
David Cameron’s authority was also undermined as eight Tories defied personal pleas to vote in favour whilst senior Government officials saw the rebelling MPs as a sign of further protests to come with the Coalition’s impending cuts.
Senior Tory Right-winger Edward Leigh warned that Middle Britain would be hit the hardest by the changes.
He said: ‘Many of the people we represent, who are on moderate incomes, who are in work, also need help as well and mustn’t be disadvantaged. Middle income, Middle Britain, cannot go on paying for this.’
Tory MP Julian Lewis, who voted No, said students from poor families would be put off by the high fees. ‘I can hear people talking percentages until they are blue in the face, or yellow in the face. But they will not convince me that young people from poor backgrounds will not be deterred.’
Meanwhile the Head of the University of Birmingham welcomed the prospect of student tuition fee rises which could hit the maximum of £9,000 a year. Vice-chancellor Prof David Eastwood said he was “relieved” the Government won the House of Commons vote:
“If there hadn’t been the prospect of a new funding regime then either the number of students in higher education would have been cut or the quality of higher education would have been reduced,” Prof Eastwood said.
“It’s been a difficult period but it is important there’s a way forward. Most students went to protest peacefully but what we saw in Parliament Square didn’t help the debate.”