More than 100 Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidates have called on leader Nick Clegg to oppose the proposed rise in tuition fees.
The 104 activists warned Mr Clegg the party – which pledged before the election to vote against any rise – could face “many more years back in the political wilderness” unless MPs rejected the coalition Government’s plans.
A parliamentary vote on the measure is expected next month and Lib Dems are permitted to abstain under the coalition agreement with the Conservatives.
But the candidates’ petition, published on West Sussex County Council member Derek Deedman’s website, said: “During the general election campaign many of our MPs (and now government ministers) signed a pledge with the National Union of Students that they would vote against any tuition fee rises during the course of the next Parliament.
“The wording of this pledge clearly indicated that this would be unconditional; regardless of whether the party was in government or in opposition.
“The party has been very clear for many years about its view on tuition fees and that we feel they should be abolished.”
It added that the candidates stance was “not a rebellion”.
But the petition went on: “There is one thing that sets the Liberal Democrats apart from other political parties; this is that when we say we will do something during election campaigns we then do it in government.”
The proposals to allow universities to raise fees by up to £9,000 a year have sparked two days of mass protests by students and lecturers this month.