Nick Clegg has urged students to call off planned demonstrations over tuition fee rises – telling them the Government’s policy would benefit less-well-off youngsters.
The Deputy Prime Minister suggested they should instead be protesting about the “scandalously” high proportion of pupils from the schools he and David Cameron attended getting places at Oxbridge.
A fresh wave of protests against increases in university tuition fees will be held on Wednesday, with a series of occupations, rallies and marches by student activists.
The Liberal Democrats have been at the centre of the storm after ditching a General Election pledge to oppose fee rises – and eventually abolish them – as part of the coalition deal.
A delegation of students is to deliver a letter to the Lib Dem leader as part of the protests, which says “no amount of twisted reasoning” can hide the fact the party lied to young voters.
“We call on you to withdraw Lib Dem support for Conservative cuts to our education system, or face the disappointment and anger of a generation that has been betrayed,” it says.
But Mr Clegg used a high-profile speech to insist he would defend the policy and told the students to “listen and look before you march and shout”.
In fact, the coalition’s proposals were “even fairer” than the graduate tax preferred by the National Union of Students, he said in the annual Hugo Young Lecture in central London.
“On higher education, I want to be crystal-clear: I will defend the Government’s plans for reforming the funding of universities, even though it is not the one I campaigned for,” he said.
“It is not my party’s policy, but it is the best policy given the choices we face.”