David Willetts walks out of Cambridge University talk

Universities Minister David Willetts was forced to abandon a speech at Cambridge University after it was disrupted by protesters.

Mr Willetts was due to speak on the 'Idea of University' on Tuesday night.

But he was shouted down by about 20 protesters unhappy with the government's higher education policies.

Mr Willetts left the lecture hall and the speech was cancelled. A number of students stayed inside the hall, where they are now staging a sit-in protest.

In a written statement, the group Cambridge Defend Education (CDE), a coalition of university students, lecturers and staff, said members had read out a letter to Mr Willetts criticising proposed education reforms before some took the stage.

Support for strike

In a press release, CDE quoted Tracey Bateman, a second-year undergraduate at the university.

She said: "Willetts wasn't here for debate, he was here to lecture us on destroying our universities.

"We needed to take this action to make our voices heard."

Image caption Mr Willetts was forced to abandon the speech after the protesters began shouting

Students are angry at the government's move to raise tuition fees.

Fees will rise to a maximum of £9,000 a year at England's universities from autumn 2012.

Universities in Wales are also raising their fees up to that maximum level - but only for students from outside Wales.

In Scotland, Scottish students will continue to pay no fees, but fees of up to £9,000 a year will be charged to students from other parts of the UK.

Robyn Smith, a PhD student from Trinity College taking part in the sit-in, said: "We're here in solidarity with the Occupy movement... and to build support for millions of striking workers on November 30th."

A spokesman for Cambridge University said: "We are monitoring the situation.

"Our primary concern is to ensure the welfare and safety of students and staff involved."

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said: "Everyone has the right to peaceful protest.

"However the minister is disappointed that he was not able to deliver his speech and answer questions."

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