A jailed fine arts student expelled for smashing a window during student protests has won backing from his peers to continue his degree.

Demonstrators stormed Conservative Party headquarters in Westminster back in 2010, smashing windows and climbing onto the roof, as thousands marched against plans to treble tuition fees.

James Heslip was later kicked out of Kingston University after Kingston Crown Court jailed him last October to 12 months for violent disorder.

But the 21-year-old, from Orchard Road, Kingston, has now attracted a swell of support from his fellow students who have launched an online petition calling for the university to reinstate him.

Heslip’s father Patrick, a Worcester landscape gardener, said any plans his son had to become a teacher or a graphic designer would be scuppered if he could not complete his degree.

He said: “If he had been given a really harsh community service it would have been just as much an imposition on his time, without ruining his life, which this may do.

“I think a lot of people understand you can get carried away in a student protest without being a career criminal.”

During his time in jail, Heslip posted illustrated letters to his girlfriend, Tabby, and drawings of birds seen through barred windows on his blog jamesheslip.blogspot.com.

His father said he asked him not to visit him in prison, but sounded cheerful in his letters and had created Christmas cards for fellow inmates.

Student union president Chris Dingle said the organisation would give Heslip advice if requested, but did not support violent action, and could not say if it would support his bid.

However the petition, launched by fellow student Alistair Farrow on Thursday, January 12, has grown daily and has so far attracted 513 signatures.

Joseph Stanley-Smith, from Kingston, wrote on the petition wall: “It's not fair to kick him out… “12 months in prison is more than enough punishment without ruining his education.

A university spokesman said Heslip had sent a statement to the vice-chancellor asking to be allowed to resume his studies when he is released, and a decision should be made in a few weeks.