The British coalition government won the vote on Thursday on its plans to increase tuition fees for universities and colleges by up to three times, but saw its majority in the House of Commons significantly reduced.
As members of parliament (MPs) voted on the issue, thousands of protesters from universities, colleges and schools from across Britain had occupied the public square outside the Houses of Parliament after marching peacefully through the center of London and turned it into a "no-go" zone for police.
The vote in the late afternoon saw the governmnent's majority in the 650-seat House of Commons reduced from 84 to just 21, with 323 MPs voting for it. Tuition fees will rise from 3,200 pounds ( about 5,047 U.S. dollars) to up to 9,000 pounds from 2012 onwards.
It was the most serious crisis inside the House of Commons for the coalition government since it came to power in May this year, and outside the House it was the angriest manifestation yet of discontent with government policies.
It will not, however, shake the government or deter it from its controversial policies to tackle the near-record public spending deficit of 149 billion pounds (about 234 billion U.S. dollars) for 2010-11 with the deepest and broadest set of cuts seen since the end of the Second World War.
Yet the protest Thursday, and a set of three earlier demonstration marches in London since early November and protests, marches, and occupations at many universities over the planned tuition fee increase have seriously damaged the coalition government's junior partner, the left-of-center Liberal Democrat party.
The Liberal Democrats had pledged before the May general election to fight any tuition fee increase, and to abolish it over a 10-year period if they came into power.
The Liberal Democrats' problem is that part of the coalition agreement was that they had to back the Conservative party, the larger party in the coalition and the largest party in the House of Commons, on policy which was to increase tuition fees.
In the House of Commons, the senior Liberal Democrat Dr Vincent Cable, who as business secretary is responsible for the tuition fees plan, justified the policy. He said it would "maintain high quality universities in the long term, tackle the fiscal deficit and provide a more progressive system of graduate contributions based on people's ability to pay."
Outside parliament, Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, said students were "incredibly disappointed and angry with the politicians who have let us down so badly. They have voted for a policy they know is unfair, unnecessary and wrong. "
He added that the policy had only been passed because "MPs have broken their promises".
Police said on Thursday evening that there had been 22 arrests, including nine for violent disorder, two for arson, three for assaults on police, three for criminal damage, one for drunk and disorderly, and four for burglary.
Police said 38 protesters and 10 police officers were injured, with six police needing hospital treatment.
In an incident away from the main protest area, which was around the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, a car carrying the Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla through one of the major London shopping districts on their way to the theater, was attacked by protesters.
Police said they "managed the situation" and that the prince and his wife were unharmed.
Xinhua spoke to students who had taken part in the march. Final- year architecture students from London Metropolitan University, Tom Randall-Page and Alex Scott-Whitby, said that violence had only been carried out by a small minority of demonstrators, but they were critical of some police tactics.