A SOUTHAMPTON student union president has apologised after she vowed to paint over a "mural of white men" and insisted she did not intend her words to be taken literally.

The mural, pictured below, was painted by Sir William Rothenstein in 1916 as a memorial to British students who served in the First World War, and depicts an academic procession and an unknown soldier being presented with a degree.

Emily Dawes, who was elected president of the union earlier this year, provoked anger last night when she wrote on social media: "Mark my words - we're taking down the mural of white men in the uni senate room, even if I have to paint over it myself."

She was criticised by other Twitter users and Royston Smith, MP for Southampton Itchen, said her statement was "disappointing" and in poor taste.

But now Ms Dawes has deleted the Tweet and apologised for her words.

She said: "Firstly, and most importantly, I would like to apologise for the offence and upset I have caused with what I have said.

"I never meant the disrespect to anyone past, present and future.

"I had no intention of the tweet being taken literally, and upon reflection have realised how inappropriate it was.

"My intention was to promote strong, female leadership and not the eradication of history.

"I do not believe that to make progress in the future, we should look to erase the past.

"Once again, I would like to apologise for the offence and upset I have caused."