NUS: deliver or lose our vote

February 25, 2005

Student leaders set out their general election stall this week with an appeal to ministers, academics and opposition parties not to see them simply as "fee fighters".

The National Union of Students published its election manifesto at a reception at Westminster on Thursday, hosted by John Grogan, the Labour MP for Selby. The NUS leadership said it would "challenge the perception" that it was preoccupied by tuition fees by setting out its position on a range of issues.

Nevertheless, the manifesto endorses the principle of "free education as a route to tackling inequality, poverty and overcoming disadvantage" and calls for the abolition of fees and restoration of maintenance grants. But, in a pragmatic touch, it also urges the Government to create a central information source about fees and bursaries in 2006.

Hannah Essex, NUS vice-president (education), said: "If politicians are serious about courting the student vote, we hope that our manifesto will be a clear indication of the wide range of policy goals they must deliver on, from reducing the gender pay gap to the exemption of students from healthcare costs."

Other policy aims include calls for pay parity between college lecturers and school teachers; better support for part-time students; closer regulation of fees for international students and greater protection under the health and safety rules that apply to housing.

Belatedly, the manifesto also supports Mike Tomlinson's proposals for the future of secondary school education - the day after the Government's White Paper on 14-19 reform rejected his main recommendations.


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