Government accused over higher education

UNISON condemned coalition policy on higher education today, with Denise Ward telling the TUC Congress that the government “appears only to be bothered about the select few for whom money is no obstacle”.

Citing the government’s 2013/14 funding letter to the English Higher Education Funding Council, the chair of the union’s higher education service group told delegates that the government claimed to be “determined to promote and protect our universities”, yet wants “all universities to develop plans to include fundraising and donations”.

How, she asked, was relying on charity to subside extortionate student tuition fees protecting universities?

“For the rich, paying tuition fees is just an extension of paying private school fees. For low to middle-income families, it is a different story,” said Ms Ward.

She said some universities are running schemes where staff can contribute to the university by donating from their salary.

“So staff are contributing to their own salaries, yet we still cannot get a pay award to address the 15% that staff pay has fallen behind in the last five years,” she continued.

Saying that government acknowledges that higher education is an “enabler of growth in other sectors and a significant export sector,” she challenged it to “put your money where your mouth is.

“Don’t put universities and colleges into the hands of those who care little for social mobility or the UK as a whole, as the main priority for the private sector is how to make a fast profit.”

UNISON in higher education

Key issue: higher education pay ballot