RESIDENTS and shoppers in Twickenham will have seen students from other parts of London demonstrating outside my office.
There are strong feelings on university funding and there is a legitimate right to peaceful protest. But some tactics - forcing entry, intimidating my staff and residents and obstructing the police - go beyond reasonable limits,
Ironically, the protesting students are not affected by the charges, which will not come into effect until 2012 and do not involve anyone paying more until 2015.
There will be higher charges because this government, like the last Labour government, decided to make serious spending cuts in my department, so as to protect the NHS, schools and pensions.
Seventy per cent of my department's spending is on universities. I decided not to cut scientific research and to stop cuts in adult and further education for skill training and apprenticeships.
The only practical option was to reduce taxpayer support for university teaching, while giving universities freedom to charge more from their high earning graduates, although few will charge the maximum of £9,000.
The graduate contribution will protect low-income graduates, including those taking time out to have a family. Those who benefit most from university will pay more - operating, in effect, like a tax, not a debt.
There will be strong pressure on universities to cut their costs and fees, to provide more professional teaching, and to widen their admission to families without a college tradition.
None of this crucial detail interests the protesters. But when the dust settles, there will be a more informed debate on what universities are for and who pays for the 40 per cent of young people who now attend.