Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has announced that the party will abandon their headline manifesto promise to eradicate university tuition fees.
The party now plans to phase out the fees over six years at a cost of £7.5 billion. The plans would not see tuition fees finally scrapped until the parliament after next.
The move comes after the Lib Dem leader suggested that the party might not be able to afford the policy in the current economic climate, which has made it "more difficult to find the money to fund our priorities".
Mr Clegg said: "We are right to adapt our plans for big spending commitments and it is right that our general election manifesto will focus this time on a smaller number of key commitments."
The move has drawn criticism from the National Union of Students (NUS). President Wes Streeting said: "For too long the Liberal Democrats' position on scrapping tuition fees has been about as clear as mud.”
Mr Streeting has accused the party of promoting “woolly long term pledges” and taking “the student vote for granted”.
He continued: “The Liberal Democrats need to be honest about where they stand on expanding student numbers and widening participation.”
Student leaders have voiced concern over the likelihood of the cap on tuition fees being lifted if David Cameron’s Conservative Party form the UK’s next government.
Mr Cameron has said that he will neither reduce nor scrap tuition fees in higher education if he becomes prime minister.
In an effort to raise the profile of the issue, the NUS has launched ‘Funding Our Future’, a campaign which aims to change the system for the better at the government review.
Key to the campaign is a pledge against lifting the cap on fees, which those standing for election to Westminister in 2010 are invited to sign.
In Edinburgh South, which includes the student area of Marchmont, both sitting MP Nigel Griffiths and his Lib Dem challenger Fred Mackintosh have signed the pledge.
In the Edinburgh North & Leith constituency, the Lib Dem candidate Kevin Lang has signed the pledge. However the area’s incumbent MP, Labour’s Mark Lazarowicz, has so far failed to commit.
Other candidates in support of the NUS campaign include Labour’s candidate in Edinburgh East Sheila Gilmore, and the SNP’s Kaukab Stewart who is standing against Chancellor Alistair Darling in his Edinburgh South West constituency.