New panel to review HE funding: beware of the dangers!

Cross-posted from The Labour Campaign for Free Education.

By Liam McNulty

According to the Times Higher Education:

A sector-wide panel of experts is to look at ideas for reforming England’s university funding system after an influential thinktank said that trebling fees has saved the taxpayer less than £400 a year per student.

The panel is convened by Universities UK, the club of university vice-chancellors, which previously lobbied for higher tuition fees.

It will be chaired by UUK president Sir Christopher Snowden, vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey, who said he wanted to seek a “broad political consensus for a sustainable system of funding”.

Other members of the Student Funding Panel include six other university leaders, economist and principal of Hertford College, Oxford Will Hutton, and Emran Mian, director of the Social Market Foundation and the former civil servant who was lead author on the 2010 Browne Review [which recommended the trebling of tuition fees].

Although this is an admission that the current funding system is in crisis, we should be worried. The over-riding purpose of the panel is to reduce the cost of loans to the state, not to investigate a fairer or more rational funding system. Already there are hints that repayment rates should be increased:

According to the IFS report, if graduates were asked to pay 12 per cent of their income over £21,000, instead of the current 9 per cent, the loan write-off rate would fall from an estimated 43.3 per cent to 35.6 per cent. A 15 per cent deduction would lead to a write-off of 30.9 per cent – close to the 28 per cent default rate originally predicted by ministers.

Lowering the repayment threshold from £21,000 to £18,000 would also yield savings, but less dramatically, by lowering the write-off rate to 36.9 per cent.

According to the Guardian:

Sir Christopher Snowden, the president of Universities UK and Surrey vice-chancellor who will chair the panel, left open the possibility that the terms of student loan repayments could be changed to keep the current funding model sustainable.

The National Union of Students (NUS) will be asked to prepare a submission to the panel. The student movement should be demanding:

  • No increase in the repayment rate
  • No lowering of the repayment threshold
  • The abolition of student debt and the introduction of grants
  • Free education funded through taxing the rich

8 things you should know about NUS conference 2014 (and about NUS in general)

1010688_10152384982091318_7083461352360765067_nBy Michael Chessum

NUS national conference 2014 took place between the 8th and the 10th April, and it witnessed a remarkable string of victories for the left, largely as a result of the weakness of the leadership and the fact that conference was far less dominated by sabbaticals than in previous years. Much has been made of the passing of free education, for the first time in over a decade, and the election of left wing candidates, but like all headlines this is only part of the story – and in order to understand and replicate the successes of the left it is necessary to delve into what happened in more detail.

One of the primary tasks of NCAFC is to provide a collective memory for activists. So here are 8 things – some about the conference, some about the past and future of NUS – that mainstream accounts often miss out.

1. The left is back in earnest, and it’s capable of winning Full Time Vice President positions.

The leftwing of NUS has walked away from every conference I’ve ever been  to (i.e. since 2009) saying that it had won “victories” around certain issues. Usually this has related to minor points of policy (tenants unions in 2013, fighting the leadership on Liberation campaign autonomy in 2010). These victories are, by and large, totally hollow. Even in years when the policy swung far to the left (in 2012 we won a large amount of education policy and a national demo), the leadership of NUS held onto almost all of its seats in electoral terms, meaning that it could simply ignore what conference said and wait for a more rightwing year to overturn our policies.

What we achieved at this conference was of a different order, however. Free education was adopted, and a number of other policies were passed, directly in the teeth of the leadership who fought and fought but were simply overwhelmed.

You would have to go back over a decade to witness a conference which was this genuinely left wing. Speeches which in years gone by would have bombed – attacking the leadership rather than actually arguing about policy, openly saying that the National Executive Council (NEC) “should not be trusted” with remitted policy – seemed to hold a majority on conference floor. (One showdown  – a procedural debate between Dom Anderson, the popular dissident Labour Students Vice President, and Alan Borgars, a known leftwing activist whose speeches regularly attracted groaning at previous conferences –   resulted in a complex motion not being remitted to the NEC, almost by accident as the result of Borgars’s propaganda speech).

The most striking testament to this process was the election for Vice President Union Development and Vice President Society and Citizenship. Having been scheduled for the final slot (4.30pm on day two), these elections should have been a leadership walkover; generally, the longer conference goes on the more entrenched and isolated the leftwing minority becomes. Precisely the opposite happened at this conference: Piers Telemacque – an almost unknown lefty college President from Bradford – was elected on first round against both the NOLS- and NCAFC-backed candidates, simply on the basis of making a cracking speech. Almost as interesting was Hannah Webb, a much more notorious hard left candidate (running on the NCAFC ticket), who took 273 votes against an incumbent, breaking the recent records for leftwingers for both the number of votes (VP Union Development in 2013) and the proportion of the vote (VP Higher Education in 2011) with 38%. She did so without any kind of campaign, as an avowedly and deliberately unwinnable candidate.

2. This isn’t a blip – it’s a trend. And it may well mark the beginning of a new era.   

The student movement – and NUS in particular – is prone to micro-climates. During the one which we have just been through, many years after the decline of Blairism in the Labour Party, the New Labour right has continued to dominate. At the height of this trend, NUS’s structures were subject to an attempt by the leadership to ‘end the cycle’ of left and right – i.e. by shutting down the left’s chances at conference permanently. This culminated in the governance review of 2007-9 – a measure which shrank conference, defunded the Block NEC members, centralised power in the Trustee Board and did many other things which made it harder for activists to get to, or have an impact at, conference.

Following this, much of the left (in particular in Education Not for Sale, NCAFC’s smaller predecessor) said that the left was out of NUS forever; many of us openly advocated disaffiliation. Those doom-ridden predictions now seem misplaced, although it is worth wondering what would have happened at conference 2014 if there had been 1200 delegates voting, rather than 700.

The governance review managed to slow down the rise of the left since 2010, but it did not ultimately stop it.

The sharp political victories in 2014 could never have been a flash in the pan: they come as the result of years of work. In 2012, the left scored its first victory with Vicki Baars elected as Vice President Union Development (VPUD) and a lot of leftwing policy being passed – the latter often with the support of Labour Students. The failure of the right in smashing the left –as it did successfully in 2013 – has put the ball in our court. By all rights, we should now be able to shift NUS’s centre of gravity dramatically to the left.

3. “The trots” are back on the NEC, along with a wealth of leftwing independents.

Block elections to the NEC always used to be the art of each faction, from the Tories to the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), making sure that it was represented, and then a few independents coming through as well. Now they are much more complicated and independent-dominated affairs. In recent years, it has not been uncommon for the SWP to be the only Trotskyist grouping on the NEC, with one or two independent NCAFC members thrown into the mix.

In 2014-15, 7 of the Block of 15 seats were taken by avowedly leftwing candidates (Cooper, Fleming, Kiely, Sandlan, Schluessel, Suleiman and Sultana) with more than that who are yet to come out either way. Meanwhile every major leftwing party/Trot group except the SWP will be represented on the NEC. The Socialist Party (Edmund Schluessel), the Alliance for Workers Liberty (Daniel Cooper), the Green Party (Clifford Flemming fromEngland and Vonnie Sandlan from Scotland) and Socialist Action (Aaron Kiely) are all on the Block, and RS21 – the “good guys” who broke away from the SWP leadership – have their seat from the Postgraduate section (Sai Englert).

Despite narrowly missing out on a further independent getting a Block seat (Deborah Hermanns lost out by 0.6 votes), NCAFC and the left in general both hold more NEC seats than ever before, including a number of full time officers.

4. Student Broad Left are back, and they may yet resurrect the SWP with them

Student Broad Left (SBL) is the polar opposite of NCAFC in terms of NUS left factions. They are numerically very small, with an opaque internal structure, and are essentially run by Socialist Action, a group which thinks Assad should be defended and that the Chinese government is progressive, and whose members often deny that the group exists. However, they still manage to have significant influence inside the NUS bureaucracy, largely via the Black Students Campaign.

For many years, SBL looked like they might drop off the edge of a cliff, and following 2012-13 – in which their prominent members found themselves in various scandals, including a weird position on Assange and support for the SWP leadership – this looked likely. However, 2014 showed an SBL very much back in recovery. Kiely got a good vote in the presidential election and was re-elected to the NEC. And although SBL’s support for Piers Telemacque was always marginal and is now being somewhat opportunistically overstated, his victory did at least prove their propensity to back a winner.

During their darkest hours, SBL relied heavily on the SWP for factional assistance, and the SWP kept them alive on numerous occasions by slating with them and preferencing them – often against the will of their student members, many of whom openly expressed a preference for working with independent activists in NCAFC. SBL are still very friendly with the SWP leadership, all of whom were wearing Aaron’s t-shirts at conference.

In propping up SBL, the SWP was in part driven by a need to keep Socialist Action close; they work together in numerous other places, including in Unite Against Fascism (UAF). But they were also driven by something far more below-the-radar: a mutual insurance policy. Now that the SWP are going into abject retreat, SBL may well use their bureaucratic connections and muscle in years to come to rehabilitate them, just as the SWP used their strength in numbers to prop up SBL. This has in part already happened in the Student Assembly Against Austerity, whose meetings are always attended by SWP loyalists.

Time will tell if the SWP will ever recover inside the student movement. But if we can be certain about one thing in student politics it is that memories are short – and with a little help from Socialist Action, and a new layer of student recruits, those hoping for the end of the SWP may well be disappointed.

5. 2010 still matters in NUS.

It will soon be four years since the storming of Millbank. But the backdrop of 2010 was still absolutely formative at conference.

Mostly this is for the well-known (and more important) reasons of failure-to-lead, rise-of-NCAFC, collective-experience-of-mass-mobilisation-and-occupations, and radicalisation-in-schools. But 2010 has also had a particular impact on the NUS bureaucracy, which it is worth noting and remembering. When Aaron Porter was forced to step down in 2011 (making him one of a tiny handful of Presidents not to serve a second term), his hands were forced from the outside by radical students, who felt betrayed, and from the inside by Labour Students, who felt embarrassed.

What this process did was to divide the leadership. The Porter loyalists backed his hastily anointed successor – Shane Chowen, then VP Further Education – while Labour Students and the less rightwing leadership faction backed Liam Burns, the NUS Scotland President who comfortably beat Chowen. In office, Burns conciliated with the left and the left made advances – both in terms of policy, and in terms of building links with SUs outside of the normal structures, for instance during the 2011 NCAFC demonstration.

Arguably more significant was the fact that Porter’s resignation and Burns’s election disrupted the usual successorship for the presidency. This meant that in 2012, when Porter’s term would ordinarily have ended, two Vice Presidents (VPUD Ed Marsh and VPHE Usman Ali) defiantly ran against Burns, in effect both claiming that they were the rightful heir (it was after all their turn). Marsh and Ali were both comfortably defeated – although Ali formed a short-lived faction involving right-leaning independent sabbs, FOSIS and “quality geeks” – but the split in the leadership meant that the left was able to fatally undermine the business-as-usual of conference 2012. And without the wins in 2012, it is difficult to imagine 2014 happening.

The lesson here is: the left can win big if the leadership are divided – either at the conference in question, or indirectly as a result of previous fissures.

6. Gender balancing’s passing reflects a shift in the mood of NUS as much as it will create one, and NUS should be careful about how reserved places impact on political diversity.

Fair Representation is now written into the NUS Rules, and it will mean a gender balanced conference and a gender balanced NEC. The interesting thing to note is that, in NUS’s last ever non-balanced conference, conference 2014 delivered a perfectly gender-balanced set of election results anyway (at least from the perspective of men/women, as opposed to other genders). Half of all FTOs (including the President) are women, as are 8 out of 15 Block members, and Democratic Procedures Committee and Trustee elections saw a roughly 50:50 split.

None of this invalidates the case for gender balancing (there is no guarantee whatsoever that the same thing would happen in 2015), but it does tell you something about how far Fair Representation has come as a result of the debate, as much as a result of the measures themselves. Fair Representation was defeated at conference 2013, perhaps partly as a result of the extremely rightwing nature of the conference in general, but this year it passed with little or no organised opposition and the support of all major factions of left and right. Those opposing have either been gradually and genuinely won around, or have been left isolated – and the atmosphere of debate has been good for women’s representation in and of itself.

There are two reservations about the debate and the implementation of the policy. The first one is political, and is one which NCAFC Women have already addressed: that to the extent that Fair Representation is merely reflective of a “women in leadership” agenda, the idea that having women in position of power is an answer or an end in itself is profoundly misplaced. Much more important are the ideas and the politics and practice of feminism – though this is of course aided by quotas.

The second note is procedural rather than political. Basically, it’s up to the Chief Returning Officer to implement the quota. If they choose a similar system to that of the FE reserved places (in which delegates effectively have two first preferences), this will have a severely negative impact on the political diversity of the Block election. This is because a gender quota would effectively create a Block of 2 in the FE places and a Block of 5 in the Open places – meaning that some candidates would need to get a full third of conference floor to give them their highest FE women’s preference. Much better would be to count the Block as it currently is and then simply relegate men and promote women until the quota is satisfied (this is how NCAFC does its Block election).

7. NOLS: down but never out

Labour Students (NOLS) had a bad conference: they lost their carefully nurtured higher education funding position (i.e. graduate tax) after over a decade; they came third in a VP election they should have won (Society and Citizenship); and they saw a large number of their own Labour clubs split off before and during conference. Only one of the 6 full time officers elected at conference was in NOLS – that has almost never happened before.

But the idea that this is the “end of NOLS” is very misplaced. They are still by far the most influential faction in NUS, and in the Block election did better than ever before, getting all three of their candidates onto the NEC. Most dramatic was Poppy Wilkinson’s success in topping the Block, proving that totally craven – and yet still unaccountably very vague – appeals for sympathy from conference can still get you almost a hundred rightwing votes. (Wilkinson gave a speech decrying the fact that students from her campus had turned up at conference and attempted, shock horror, to hold her to account for her role in attacking student protest instead of police violence at Birmingham, and her failure to support arrested and suspended students in the following months).

NOLS will be faced with a number of big challenges and decisions come 2015. The main one will be who to back or run for National President. Rachel Mattey – the current VPUD, and regarded as from the rightwing of the leadership – has been manoeuvring for it. Coming from a weak factional position, NOLS may be hard pushed to run Joe Vinson, their only VP, for the role, but they may decide to do so anyway. If they do, they will risk splitting the leadership’s votes and letting a credible left candidate in. If they don’t run Vinson, they will have to choose between backing Mattey – a move that would alienate their left wing and give oxygen to a growing right wing independent/clique faction, as well as potentially losing the election anyway – or backing a credible left wing candidate, a move that may hand power to the left and ruin the present NOLS leadership in the medium term.

8. The left has learned how to win at conference, and it has to digest these lessons. But winning at conference isn’t an inside job

There was a stark difference between the successes of various modes of intervention at conference 2014 – electorally and in terms of getting policy through. Traditionally, the left has given the vast majority of its policy speeches to just a few candidates whom it profiles for election. At conference 2014, however, there was a solid contrast between profiling and electoral success, as well as a clear preference from conference floor for new faces and non-candidates in policy debates. In the free education debate, the key speeches all came from speakers who weren’t running for FTO, and the speeches which really swayed conference (on strikes, 5:1 pay ratios, housing, cops off campus etc) were by and large irreverent, spontaneous and from ‘ordinary’ delegates.

Conversely, the big electoral successes of conference – Piers Telemacque, Kelly Rogers, Hannah Webb, and, in a different way, Megan Dunn – were all headlined by candidates who took few (if any) policy speeches. Successful candidates based their campaign on a good husting speech and networking, and very occasionally on some well-targeted motion profiling. Likewise, in the Block election, candidates who should – by the old measure of motion speeches – have stormed the election lost out to more independent candidates who made tuned-in speeches, and spent their time at conference canvassing individual delegates.

This said, it is vital that the left does not simply rely on new-fangled approaches. Conference 2014 was leftwing in part because of its composition – and you can bet that the leadership will not let that happen again. As NOLS and networks of sabbs organise right wing slates for delegate elections, the left must organise as well. And, as always, we must remember that NUS conference is about as far away from reality as it is possible to get: unlike the string of New Labour politicians to have come out of NUS, we do not regard either policy or elections as an end in themselves. The test for us must remain the strength of the student movement in the streets and on campuses – and our ability to force the hand of government and management.

More than that, winning things at NUS conference is rarely – if ever – the product of well-calculated hackery. We won in 2012 because we dominated the narrative around the higher education white paper and organised a demonstration when NUS wouldn’t; and we won in 2014 because we lead the campaign on #copsoffcampus, the right to dissent and solidarity with workers, and we dominated the narrative on what education should be for. The strength of the left in NUS derives from grassroots activism, and is only relevant in so far as it benefits real activism.

#ibacktheboycott – students support the marking boycott

The University and Colleges Union (UCU) will decide in May whether or not to escalate its action as a marking boycott. To see NCAFC’s guide to how to help with the boycott, click here. Our staff have been left with no choice by university managers’ refusal to deal with their grievances, and by the aggressive response campaigners have received from their employers, including punitive pay deductions.  The marking boycott could be called off immediately if university managers agreed to fair pay through their organisation UCEA (the University and College Employers’ Association). So on your campus, you can support decent pay for staff and help stop the marking boycott by putting pressure on your Vice-Chancellor in solidarity with campus workers.

PLEASE SHARE THIS VIDEO:

MAY DAY at the University of London

1509247_1388010898145585_7572563998002243351_nNCAFC is supporting the mobilisation at the University of London for May Day this year. Join the facebook event, and spread the word.

We are collecting signatures for a public letter in support of the demonstration (below). Send yours to [email protected]

On 1st May, international workers’ day will remind the world of the continuing struggle for justice in the face of systemic attacks on workers, our communities and the services we rely on.

The University of London has been at the heart of this struggle: bad pay and worse conditions are imposed by unaccountable managers through the threat of unemployment and police violence. Over the past year, its outsourced workers have been fighting one of the most courageous and inspiring industrial disputes in the country, demanding sick pay, holiday pay and pensions; and management is attempting to repress dissent – by shutting down its own student union whilst repeatedly colluding with the Metropolitan Police to attack and arrest demonstrators.

Students are workers. We are forced to work to pay the bills in an increasingly hostile education system in which we pay to learn to work. Ours is a future of exploitation and precarity: permanent austerity means no jobs, no pensions and no welfare state.  We are not fighting for the rights of workers as an act of charity, but because we see solidarity as the only way of preserving our basic freedoms and fighting for a better world.

That is why we are supporting the call for a demonstration on May Day at the University of London. We urge the University of London to grant full sick pay, holiday pay and pensions to all outsourced workers in parity with in-house employees, with no redundancies at the Garden Halls; to ensure that its student union remains fully funded and under democratic student control; and to issue a public statement prohibiting the Police and UKBA from all Campus spaces without the express permission of elected student representatives.

An anonymous tumblr has called for a mass demonstration with the following callout:

The University has seen mass pickets by cleaners, caterers, students and other insubordinates, arm in arm before the gates of a paint splattered university HQ. Watching through clenched teeth and the multiple lenses of their surveillance equipment, management have seen this too, and have sought to restore exploitation in the only way they know how — with lies, evasion – and straightforward violence.

This fight was always about more than the university. Televisions blare out the news of our continued impoverishment: tuition fees up, wages down, No benefits for you! No pay for you! Repayment dates and overdue rent. “Seek assistance” the barriers scream. Another fiver today. Tomorrow, another. 

But in school classrooms and underground stations, amongst the underpaid of the opera houses and cinemas, something stirs: Disaffection is finding its feet. The people that capital likes to imagine are solidly under its thumb are taking the fight back to the bosses.

Join us and our soundsystem at the university HQ on the evening of May 1st for a CARNIVAL to celebrate these victories and show the bosses and cops that despite their continued intimidation, we will keep on fighting.

This is a Carnival for everyone: the precarious, the low paid, the zero-houred, the part-time, the temporary, the interned, the unemployed, the workfared, the sacked, the redundant, the indebted. Bring yourselves and your sound systems to ULU - Malet St - for 6PM, the parade will depart at 7.30.

Workers, students, unemployed of the world – ENJOY!

Sick pay, holidays, pensions now! End union busting! No more vice-chancellors! Cops off campus!

 

Holding Poppy Wilkinson to account

Since January 29th we have been striving to make public Poppy Wilkinson’s record. This includes her decisions to (a) publicly condemn students demonstrating at the University of Birmingham, while 13 students were being arrested and in spite of heavy-handed violence of the part of security, police and university management, and (b) to vote against/abstain from decisions democratically agreed upon by students, and be complicit in the most undemocratic intervention by the Trustee Board in the Guild of Students’ structures seen in years. The latter has resulted in an abhorrent attack on Liberation groups at the University of Birmingham, and risks the decimation of Liberation representation.

Poppy Wilkinson, President of University of Birmingham Guild of Students and Labour Students candidate for NUS NEC, is re-elected President at our students’ union and is anticipated to follow the well-trodden path onto NUS leadership over the coming years. It is for this reason that we want to publicly condemn her actions this year. Her decisions ignited controversy more broadly, including, for instance, over one hundred elected officers from students’ unions around the country condemn her.

Over the course of the past few months we have been accused by Wilkinson and Labour Students of bullying.

We view this use of welfare and accessibility by Labour Students to dissuade us from campaigning against her as underhand and appropriative. It implicitly erases the welfare issues faced by the suspended students. As a result of our suspensions, and the vast portion of our time spent fighting for meagre political support from our students’ union (only 5 weeks after our suspensions began did the Guild even release a statement in opposition), two of us are re-taking their final years, and all of us are experiencing stress, depression or anxiety.

The decisions by the Trustee Board to remove assurances of the continued existence of Liberation Officers, and their refusal to put full-time Liberation Officers to referendum – which Poppy voted to remove as a question – will have profound effect on countless students at the University of Birmingham. It will remove any meaningful attempt to improve the lot of students defining into Liberation groups, who, as we know, are disproportionately likely to suffer depression, to self-harm, to attempt suicide, to experience abuse, bullying and violence, to be sexually assaulted and raped. The welfare of these students has not been taken into account one jot by the Guild of Students under Poppy Wilkinson’s leadership.

So while none of this denigrates Poppy’s experiences, it certainly does justify the interrogation of her record and the public condemnation of her decisions. It is not bullying to hold figures in public office to account.

 

#FightForYashika – save London student Yashika Bageerathi from deportation

Bj6KMjMIQAAyry5UPDATE: Yashika is being taken to Heathrow Terminal 4 tonight for a flight  at 9pm. There are a number of things that you can do, including:

  • Going to Heathrow from 7pm to protest
  • Pressuring @airmauritius not to fly
  • Bombarding Air Mauritius on 0207 434 4375

Yashika Bageerathi is a student from North London who is facing deportation by the British government. Find out more about her case here.

Sign the petition here.

NCAFC opposes all deportations and restrictions on where people can live and study.

Threatened tuition fee hikes: why we need mass resistance, and why we need NCAFC

A student protest over government plans to sell off student loan debtsOriginally posted on Comment is Free here.

The revelation that the new tuition fees system – introduced in 2010 in the face of massive student protest – will in fact cost more to run than the old one, should come as a surprise to almost no one who paid attention to the debate over its introduction. [Read more...]

Government backtracks on cuts to maintenance grant!

156792822_1In a ministerial statement (see below), David Willets, the Universities and Science minister, has taken the prospect of cutting the student maintenance grant off the table. This means that despite speculation over many months, student maintenance grant levels will remain the same over the next two years. This is good news!

In November, 2013, it was revealed by the Guardian newspaper, many other broadsheets and Higher Education experts that because the Government had recklessly mismanaged student recruitment levels at private educational providers and established universities, the department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) had developed a multi-million pound shortfall in its budget. The Government had planned to make this up by cutting £350 million in the student maintenance grant offered to each student (a £1, 000 cut per student).

There has been a dispute within government about this. Willets and Osborne, the Chancellor, were said to favour the maintenance grant cut, however the Liberal Democrats – Vince Cable and Nick Clegg in particular – opposed the measure. It is likely that the government considered the cut in the maintenance grant – which would hit thousands and thousands of poorer students – as potentially very damaging politically prior to an election, and have instead sought to make cuts elsewhere.

It was important that we raised the alarm bell to a potentially harmful proposal.

Due to today’s announcement we have cancelled tomorrow’s planning meeting at ULU. We may reconvene in the next weeks when further news comes from the Government.

BIS still has to find emergency savings of £570m in 2014/15, and £860m in 15/16, from an operational budget of £13bn. Like most changes in Higher Education the decision to cut maintenance grants could be done administratively through a departmental decision, rather than through an act of parliament or plainly put, through a democratic measure.

For that reason we should be alert to further cuts in access agreements by the Government.

We will continue to keep a close-eye on developments within government and update supporters and colleagues.

****

WRITTEN MINISTERIAL STATEMENT RT HON DAVID WILLETTS, MINISTER OF STATE FOR UNIVERSITIES AND SCIENCE; DEPARTMENT FOR BUSINESS, INNOVATION AND SKILLS HIGHER EDUCATION STUDENT SUPPORT FOR THE 2015/16 ACADEMIC YEAR

13 MARCH 2014

“I am today confirming the student support package for higher education students undertaking a course of study in the academic year beginning September 2015.

*Tuition charges and loans*

For all new full-time students and eligible continuing full-time students who started their courses on or after 1 September 2012, maximum tuition charges and maximum tuition loans will be maintained in 2015/16 at the £6,000 and £9,000 levels which apply in 2014/15.

For continuing full-time students who started their courses before September 2012, maximum tuition charges and maximum tuition loans will be maintained in 2015/16 at the £3,465 level which applies in 2014/15.

For all new part-time students in 2015/16, and eligible continuing part-time students who started their courses on or after 1 September 2012, maximum tuition charges and maximum tuition loans will also be maintained at the £4,500 and £6,750 levels which apply in 2014/15.

*Maintenance Grant*

The Government announced in the 2013 Spending Review in June 2013 that the maximum Maintenance Grant for students attending full-time courses in 2015/16 would be maintained at the same levels which apply in 2014/15. This means for new students and eligible continuing students who started their courses on or after 1 September 2012, the maximum grant in 2015/16 will remain at £3,387. For continuing students who started their courses before 1 September 2012, the maximum grant in 2015/16 will remain at £3,110.

*Loans for living costs*

Eligible students attending full-time courses will be entitled to more overall support for their living costs in 2015/16 than in 2014/15. Maximum loans for living costs for new and continuing full-time students will be increased by forecast inflation for 2015/16, 3.34%.

For new students and eligible continuing students who started attending their courses on or after 1 September 2012, who are living away from home and studying outside London, the maximum loan for living costs will be increased to £5,740. I can confirm that the equivalent loan rates for students living away from home and studying in London will be £8,009; for those living in the parental home during their studies, £4,565; and for those studying overseas as part of their UK course, £6,820.

For eligible full-time students who started attending their courses before 1 September 2012 and are living away from home while studying outside London, the maximum loan for living costs will be increased to £5,167. The equivalent loan rates for students living away from home and studying in London will be £7,230; for those living in the parental home during their studies, £4,005; and for those studying overseas as part of their UK course, £6,151.

*Dependants’ grants*

The Government is committed to supporting students with caring responsibilities. I am therefore announcing today that means tested dependants’ grants for full-time students attending their courses will be increased by forecast inflation for 2015/16. The maximum Adult Dependants’ Grant will be increased by 3.34% to £2,757 in 2015/16.

The maximum Childcare Grant payable in 2015/16, which covers 85% of actual childcare costs, will be increased by 3.34% in 2015/16 to £155.24 per week for one child only and to £266.15 per week for two or more children. The maximum Parents’ Learning Allowance payable in 2015/16 will be increased by 3.34% to £1,573.

*Part-time grants and loans*

For those students who started part-time and full-time distance learning courses before 1 September 2012 and who are continuing their courses in 2015/16, maximum fee and course grants will be maintained at the levels that apply for 2014/15. Maximum fee grants will be maintained at £1,285, depending on the intensity of study of the course. Maximum course grants will be maintained at £280.

*Income thresholds*

Household income thresholds for grants for tuition and living costs, and loans for living costs, will be maintained at 2014/15 levels for 2015/16.

*Disabled Students’ Allowances*

Lastly today, I can confirm that maximum grants for full-time, part-time and postgraduate students with disabilities will be maintained at 2014/15 levels in 2015/16.

*Regulations*

I expect to lay Regulations implementing changes to student support for 2015/16 later this year. More details of the 2015/16 student support package will be published by my Department in due course.

Press Release – Leicester student activist on trial accused of cops off campus ‘hate crime’ towards ex-cop security-guard

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Leicester student activist on trial accused of “#CopsOffCampus” ‘hate crime’ towards ex-cop security-guard.

Alistair Robinson is to appear in court charged for allegedly elbowing a security guard on Wednesday 11 December 2013 during a sit-in at the University of Leicester, calling for fair pay for staff at the university. The trial is at Leicester Magistrate’s court today, Friday the 7th March at 2pm.

Alistair Robinson, 24, was arrested on the 6th of February 2014 supporting a picket-line at the University of Leicester, almost two months after the alleged assault. Witnesses claim that during the sit-in, the defendant was not near Mr Monks, Head of Security at the university, at any time.

Leicster

There was also surprise at the timing of the arrest, only three days after it emerged that Mr Robinson had been nominated to run for Students’ Union President in the University of Leicester Sabbatical elections, and the same week that Robinson published an article in the University of Leicester student newspaper, condemning the university’s decision to withhold a full days pay to staff on strike for just two hours.

Nina Trbojevic, a student at the university said, “Alistair had been in touch with police about his stolen bicycle, between December and his arrest. They knew where to find him, so why did they wait until February?”

At a bail-hearing on the 21st of February, Robinson was informed by the Crown Prosecution Service prosecutor that the CPS had made a recommendation to police that the  case be discontinued due to a lack of evidence. A provisional adjournment date was set for the 7th of March, pending response from Leicestershire Police. However, bafflingly this week, the defence were made aware that Leicestershire Police will be continuing with the case against Robinson; soon after it was discovered that Mr Monks, the security-guard making the accusation, has previously had a long career in the police, reaching the rank of Sergeant before becoming Chairman of the Leicestershire Police Federation.

Oddly, the assault has been categorised as a “hate crime”. It is believed this relates to the police presumption that the protest was a ‘cops off campus’ demonstration, being on the same day as nationwide cops off campus demonstrations, called in response to the violence used by police towards student protesters at the University of London. Demonstrators at the fair-pay protest in Leicester held a number of banners, with only one of them referring to ‘cops off campus’, in solidarity with London protesters.

The hearing is today at 2pm, Friday the 7th March at Leicester Magistrates Court, 15 Pocklingtons Walk, Leicester LE1 6BT.

 

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ENDS

Don’t let the Coalition attack the poorest students: fight the cut to student grants!

universityprotestThe government are set to cut a series of vital access measures and cut the student maintenance grant by £1, 000 (a 40% cut!). Because of the urgency of the matter, the University of London Union is proposing holding a national meeting on the issue in the coming weeks,  info will be posted here.

Additionally, we are calling a Budget day demonstration on the 19th March, full info out soon.

The Government has plans to slash £1,000 from the maximum level of student grants, as well cutting hundreds of millions from arrangements to promote access. We the undersigned student activists and student union officers are organising to fight these plans. After the upcoming national election the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is planning to cut the maximum level of maintenance grants by £1,000 a year – a 40 percent cut! – to be replaced by higher loans.

In addition, having already brought forward the scrapping of the National Scholarship Program, it is abolishing the Access to Learning Fund which gives discretionary grants to the very poorest students. Higher education funding will be cut by over a hundred million. On top of the privatisation of student loans! This is an enormous attack on higher education, and the cut to grants is an enormous and very direct attack on students. We need to fight it!

These cuts are partly a result of BIS’s shambolic disarray, symbolised by its decision to let provide providers expand hugely without factoring in the extra cost in student support. But this is not just incompetence: it is a deliberate part of the Coalition’s wide-ranging devastation of public services. We demand decent funding so that higher education can be run as a public service. We call on the Labour Party to oppose these cuts and pledge that it will reverse them. Immediately, we will fight the funding cuts and the dramatic cut to student grants.

We call on NUS to launch a serious campaign including a national demonstration in the autumn. There is a national planning meeting in the coming weeks at the University of London Union to discuss ways forward for a campaign on the issue, info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/581883648546360/

Additionally, we are calling a Budget day demonstration on the 19th March, full info out soon. ‘Like’ the page @Don’t let the Government cut the student maintenance grant… and share the news.