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Prince Charles attacked by student protesters

Britain's coalition government scraped through its biggest political challenge as it pushed through measures aimed at tripling university fees on Thursday amid an upsurge in street violence that saw students attack a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife.

world Updated: Dec 11, 2010 07:32 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar

Britain's coalition government scraped through its biggest political challenge as it pushed through measures aimed at tripling university fees on Thursday amid an upsurge in street violence that saw students attack a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife.

The government, which enjoys a majority of 83 in parliament, won the controversial motion by only 21 votes after MPs belonging to both coalitions partners - Conservatives and Liberal Democrats - openly rejected the advice of their party leaders.

The hike in the minimum tuition fees that university are allowed to charge from the current £3,290 to £9,000. It applies only to English universities and will come into force in 2012.

As MPs debated and voted, tens of thousands of student protesters clashed with police outside the British parliament. Angry protesters set upon a Rolls Royce carrying Prince Charles, the British heir apparent, and his wife Camilla in the West End district, throwing paint on the limousine and cracking its windows.

"Camilla looked terrified," an eyewitness said. The royal couple looked visibly shaken as they emerged from the car at to attend a variety programme.

On a night of mayhem at central London, police arrested 26 protesters after the windows were broken at the finance ministry and Supreme Court. Twelve police officers and 43 students were injured in clashes.

Indian and other overseas students, who have helped subsidise Britons study in universities by paying much higher fees, are also likely to be hit. According to research carried out for the Sutton Trust, an education charity, fees for foreign students have risen by up to 40% since 2002-03, with some paying as much as £20,000 a year. Indians constitute the largest group of overseas students after the Chinese.