Conference vows to step up campaign against HE marketisation

‘Fully funded, high quality higher education system that delivers for students and the wider community is a social good’ delegates agree.

UNISON will step up its campaign against the increasing turn to markets and commercialisation in higher education, especially in England.

The union’s higher education conference in Chester today pointed out that government policy for the sector in England “has been dominated by the pursuit of competition, markets and privatisation”.

This has been even more the case since the Higher Education and Research Act came into law early last year, including setting up a new regulator for the sector – the Office for Students – which has no staff voice.

Moving the successful motion on behalf of the service group executive, Donna Rowe-Merriman said that with “vice chancellor pay abuses, student loan fraud in private universities in England, poor governance in appointments – it seems like higher education is constantly in the news, and not for the right reasons.”

At the same time, increased tuitition fees – trebled in England since 2010 – has increased student debt to unprecedented level, with outstanding debt on the loans, standing at £100.5bn; with £83.5bn of that in England alone.

With the sector receiving £3bn of public money a year, UNISON is campaigning for “a review of governance structures in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that universities are open and transparent and that the student body, staff and wider society have a role in their performance,” said Ms Rowe-Merriman.

Conference agreed to run a high value campaign for “a fully funded, high quality higher education system that delivers for students and the wider community” as a social good.