The campaign has been active for over four years now with a number of different strands, including the ‘Come Clean on Fees’ and ‘Vote for Students’ activities.
Plans to raise tuition fees from 2012 to £9000 were passed by only 21 votes in the House of Commons, the smallest majority since the coalition was formed. Although many Liberal Democrat MPs did not adhere to the pledge that they had made through the Vote for Students campaign, the pressure we exerted on these MPs enabled us to achieve a number of concessions to the bill including:
1. A rising of the fee repayment threshold from £15,000 a year, to £21,000.
2. The revising of the repayment threshold being made on an annual basis, rather than periodically.
3. The introduction of a £150m National Scholarship Programme to support students from low income households.
4. Part-time students included in the funding settlement for the first time.
5. London weighting to be reviewed meaning students studying in London could be in line for extra financial support.
6. A cap retained on tuitions fees, a reversal of the Browne Reviews proposals to remove the cap altogether.
NUS believes that these concessions, although they are a step in the right direction, do not create a fairer funding system. Especially when:
1. Both houses of parliament have now approved a £9,000 limit on Higher Education Undergraduate Tuition Fees.
2. This happened despite an unprecedented mass campaign from NUS that has united students, lecturers and the general public and the largest student demonstration in a generation.
3. The Government has abolished EMA and implemented savage cuts to HE and FE budgets
4. That there has been disproportionate cuts to HE teaching budgets by 80% as well as a large cut in postgraduate teaching funding
5. That 16-18 teaching funding has been protected, but with a unit cost reduction to fund the raising of the participation age – this is a real terms cut.
6. Changes are not restricted to England, there have also been increases in tuition fees in Wales and Northern Ireland proposed.
7. The changes to education funding have been done alongside the abolition of AimHigher and EMA in England.
It is important within the new political landscape that this campaign remains a priority. We must continue to capture the activism of the campaign and ensure this continues over what promises to be challenging years ahead.
You can pledge your support to the campaign now and help NUS win the fight for a fairer funding system.
NUS National President Liam Burns
Campaign Effectiveness Officer (Andrew Henry)