Thousands of students have marched in London to protest over higher tuition fees which they claim will deter people from high education.
Graduates benefit society, it was argued
Students who started degree courses in September this year have to pay up to £3,000 a year towards tuition costs.
The government said the new package is fairer as the fees are no longer paid upfront and grants and bursaries are available to disadvantaged students.
The National Union of Students has called for the policy to be reversed.
NUS president Gemma Tumelty said: "We really believe that debt will be a huge deterrent on students entering education.
"This year there were 15,000 fewer students - that's a huge concern to us, particularly when government is trying to widen participation."
Demonstrators marched past parliament and 10 Downing Street before converging at Trafalgar Square.
Ms Tumelty said that having to pay off student debt prevented graduates from investing in pensions and mortgages and contributing to society through spending.
"It takes years to recover from that financial burden, particularly for women, due to career breaks and pay inequality", she said.
"What is always overlooked is that education is a benefit to society as well as the individual.
"We're the institutions producing doctors, nurses, engineers, and that is a is a huge benefit to society and therefore society should pay."
The NUS said a poll of 1,000 people - conducted by ICM for the NUS to mark Sunday's demonstration - found 74% felt higher costs would deter students.
The survey of 1,019 UK adults found most thought estimated costs of £33,000 for a three-year degree course would put young people off going to university.
But the Minister for Lifelong Learning Further and Higher Education, Bill Rammell, said: "Given the substantial extra income that graduates earn, I believe that it is fair to ask graduates who benefit most to contribute to the cost of their education as well as tax payer."
He said students would not need to start paying back until they were earning.
"A graduate earning £18,000 pays back £5.19 per week. This is a fairer system for parents and students and will provide for a stronger university sector."
Students win support
University and College Union joint general secretary, Paul Mackney, said lecturers backed the call for an abolition of all university fees.
He said: "Anyone who believes that charging more for degrees is the way to encourage the most able candidates to apply to, or even consider, university is living in a dream world."
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said any move to remove the £3,000 a year cap on tuition fees would put more people off going to university.