A student was rusticated for two and a half years today for his role in the protest at a speech by David Willetts last term.

Owen Holland, a PhD student in the faculty of English, will not be allowed to return to his studies until Michaelmas 2014.

The student, who read the speech through the 'human mic' at the CACHE talk in November, has 28 days to appeal the sentence. He is understood to be planning to do so.

The length of the sentence is entirely unprecedented, and many involved in the protest had expected that he would simply be fined.

Liam McNulty, a member of CDE and a student who was involved in the protest, said: "This sentence is unprecedented and grossly disproportionate.

"The University has made a mockery of any notion that it exists to protect the freedom of expression. It has disgraced itself in the eyes of all reasonable people."

CUSU President Gerard Tully released a statement saying: “We are dismayed by the University Court’s bizarre decision to hand down to a single student a punishment seven times stronger than what the University’s own prosecutors had asked for – rusticating him until Michaelmas 2014."

"This is in no sense a fair application of justice, and students and academics expect better from Cambridge."

"Should an appeal be lodged, we fully expect the University to apply reason and quash this heavy-handed and unfair sentence. For a University that so rightly prides itself on academic freedom and the justness of its procedures, there is simply no alternative.”

The decision comes after a number of students and staff signed a 'Spartacus letter', criticising Holland's prosecution and the University's behaviour following the protest.

Cambridge Defend Education this afternoon tweeted: "i hope they understand that this means war".

Two petitions have been created, one by CUSU titled 'This is not justice', and another by supporters of the student. At the time of writing, the latter had received over 1500 signatures. 

It also comes on the day that students vote on the Union Presidency, which Holland is running for.