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Thousands of students from more than 30 public universities took to the streets in Colombia to protest against proposed education reforms they fear will partially privatize higher education.

The protests in several major cities on Wednesday were mainly peaceful, with demonstrators in the capital Bogota stopping to hug riot police stationed along the route.

"We are asking for the creation of a space for dialogue and consultation on our education, and respect for mobilization," Sergio Fernandez, a spokesman for the protesters, told AFP.

The students have been on strike over the past two weeks to protest a bill put forward by President Juan Manuel Santos that would require public universities to generate some of their own revenues.

The government has defended the bill, saying it would provide another $5.7 billion for higher education over the next 10 years and allow for the admission of another 600,000 students.