Oxford University students voted to remove a portrait of the Queen from their common room.
However, the move has been branded “simply absurd” by education secretary Gavin Williamson after students claimed she is a symbol of colonialism.
The Magdalen College Middle Common Room is made up of post-graduate students, who launched the motion to make members “feel welcome”.
One student is said to have commented “patriotism and colonialism are not really separable”, according to the political website Guido Fawkes.
The alleged decision sparked a backlash on Twitter, with the president of Magdalen College swiftly moving to distance the institution itself from the students involved.
On Tuesday evening, the education secretary tweeted: “Oxford University students removing a picture of the Queen is simply absurd.
“She is the Head of State and a symbol of what is best about the UK. During her long reign she has worked tirelessly to promote British values of tolerance, inclusivity and respect around the world.”
Barrister Dinah Rose, who was appointed president of Magdalen College last year, emphasised that the students were not representative of the college, but supported their right to “free speech and political debate”.
In a series of tweets, she said: “Here are some facts about Magdalen College and HM the Queen.
“The Middle Common Room is an organisation of graduate students. They don’t represent the College.
“A few years ago, in about 2013, they bought a print of a photo of the Queen to decorate their common room.
“They recently voted to take it down. Both of these decisions are their own to take, not the College’s.