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LIB DEM RUNS THE GAUNTLET OF FEES PROTEST.

Byline: Kat Keogh

PROTESTERS heckled a senior MP tasked with explaining tuition fee increases during his visit to a Birmingham university.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes faced a group of placard-waving campaigners ahead of a debate with students at Birmingham City University's Perry Barr campus. Mr Hughes was appointed as an advocate for access to higher education last December - even though he abstained on the vote to raise the cap on tuition fees.

The MP met with a group of 20 students selected by the university's students' union to discuss changes to tuition fees.

Among those who protested alongside students and Perry Barr Labour MP Khalid Mahmood was Aslam Wassan, who graduated from the university last year with a degree in business and management. The 52-year-old said: "I am really angered by the tuition fee increases.

"The decision has already been made so I don't see what good talking to students now will do.

"Ordinary people will not have the money to pay these fees so education is going to go back to belonging to rich people."

But Mr Hughes insisted it "wasn't too late" to encourage people to go to university despite seats of learning, including the University of Birmingham, charging pounds 9,000-a-year tuition fees.

He said: "We want people to have a real understanding of what the policy means and not put people off going to college or university.

"I am here to hear what young people have to say about what they think can be done to encourage people to go to university or college, and to get young people involved in the process of getting that message across."

Mr Hughes also discussed plans to offer careers advice to secondary school pupils from Year 9, and work experience placements to children as young as ten.

Mr Hughes, who also visited Solihull College, is set to report back with his findings from his visits to Prime Minister David Cameron at the end of June.

Student Laura Hall, who attended the debate, said she felt the event was "worthwhile".

The 21-year-old, from Dudley, said: "We might not be able to do much to change increased tuition fees but at least we are being encouraged to say how we can encourage students to still think about university."

OUR SAY:A PAGE 14
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Apr 7, 2011
Words:384
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