Education & Family

Vince Cable cancels Oxford visit over student protest

Oxford University
Image caption Students say the protest will go ahead

The Business Secretary Vince Cable has pulled out of a planned visit to Oxford University where students were planning a protest.

He was due to take part in a seminar organised by Brasenose College.

Students from Oxford and Oxford Brookes universities had planned to demonstrate against higher education cuts and proposed tuition fees rises.

A spokesman for Mr Cable said the decision had been taken after advice from the police.

He said: "Vince Cable has postponed a visit to the University of Oxford tomorrow where he was due to speak to students in his capacity as an MP about his life in politics.

"This followed advice from Thames Valley Police about threats of a protest and his concern about the level of disruption this could cause to the people of Oxford plus the possible cost of policing."

The government is preparing to announce its plans for the future funding of England's universities following the Browne Review which called for a lifting of the cap on university tuition fees.

'Laughable'

The organisers of the protest say it will go ahead as planned.

The group - called the Oxford Education Campaign - is made up of students and academics from both of the city's universities.

A spokesman said: "It is absolutely laughable that he should abandon his commitments due to a peaceful protest.

"A government minister should have the courage to face the electorate - even those who disagree with him."

The demonstration was being promoted via the group's Facebook page - headlined "Oxford protests against the Browne Review".

Students were planning on marching to the examination schools in the city centre where the business secretary was due to speak.

The university's Cherwell newspaper predicted that the protests would be one of the largest involving Oxford students in recent years.

Thames Valley Police said the force had been aware of a potential protest.

A spokesman said: "Thames Valley Police was putting plans in place for the visit of Vince Cable to the Oxford University Exams School on October 28.

"However, Mr Cable's office has today advised Thames Valley Police that following their own risk assessment, they have made the decision to cancel the event."

Lib Dem pressure

Mr Cable and his fellow Lib Dem MPs are facing a backlash from students.

They campaigned against university tuition fees in opposition and signed pre-election pledges to oppose any rise.

Under the coalition deal they have the option of abstaining on a tuition fee vote, although some MPs have said they will vote against.

President of the Oxford University Student Union David Barclay told BBC News: "Vince Cable has in the past few weeks turned his back on students.

"Today he has admitted that he can't even look them in the eye. This government might want to plug its ears on University fees but Oxford students will make their voices heard."

Students and lecturers are organising a national demonstration in London for 10 November to protest about cuts, the prospect of higher fees and what they say is the increasing privatisation of education.

The government announced a 40% cut to the higher education budget in the spending review and offered protection only to teaching budgets for subjects such as science, maths and engineering.

Subsequent comments from the Universities Minister David Willetts suggest the government expects teaching for arts and humanities to be mainly funded by students' tuition fees - in line with proposals from Browne.

The details have not yet been confirmed.

Additional reporting by James Ingham

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