Thousands of university staff and students from across the West Midlands were taking to the streets of London today in protest at plans to treble tuition fees.

About 2,500 students from the region’s universities were heading to the capital for the mass demonstration against cuts to education funding and higher student fees.

The rally, which has been organised by the University and College Union (UCU) and National Union of Students (NUS), will see up to 10,000 protesters march through central London and past the Houses of Parliament in the wake of huge cuts to colleges and universities.

Universities Minister David Willetts last week outlined proposals to raise the tuition fee cap to £6,000 by 2012 – and enable institutions to charge up to £9,000 in “exceptional circumstances”.

College students will also see the weekly Educational Maintenance Allowance, given to disadvantaged 16 to 19-year-olds to encourage them to continue their schooling, scrapped from next year.

Coaches were put on to ferry protesters from Birmingham’s universities along with of the universities of Wolverhampton, Warwick and Worcester. 

Among those boarding a battle bus was Elinor MacCormac, who joined more than 300 students from the University of Birmingham.

She said: “It is disgusting that they are trying to raise the fees so drastically, most students simply will not be able to afford higher education in the future.”

Laura Hall, education and welfare officer at Birmingham City Student’s Union, was among 130 people from Birmingham City University who travelled to the capital for the Fund our Future: Stop Education Cuts rally.

She said: “Students here have seen funding cut by 78 per cent so they are angry at being made to pay for a crisis they didn’t cause.

“Students at Birmingham City Student’s Union refuse to go back to a time when only the rich could afford an education.”

The protest comes as figures released today by the UCU reveal the annual cost of studying for a degree has increased by 311.5 per cent since 1988.

West Midlands regional official Martin Machon said: “If implemented, the Government’s plans will completely change the landscape of further and higher education.

“They would represent the final nail in the coffin of affordable university education and the end of genuine choice of degree for thousands of people.”