Confusion over tuition fees and the axing of grants is splitting the National Union of Students, writes Alan Thomson.
Student unions across the country say the NUS's response to the Government's planned scrapping of maintenance grants and introduction of tuition fees has been inadequate. Many are now considering affiliating to pressure groups.
The attacks come despite the successful NUS ballot against tuition fees, in which two-thirds of UK unions came out in favour of a series of regional demonstrations planned for November 1.
Factions like the Campaign for Free Education have long opposed NUS policy supporting income-contingent loans. And it has now been joined by another pressure group, Real Solutions Coalition for State Funded Education. A number of hitherto mainstream unions, with no links to the CFE, are also questioning the NUS leadership policy.
Joe Rukin, vice president education and welfare at the mainstream NUS-affiliated Coventry University student union, said that it was now up to the NUS national executive committee to call an extraordinary conference to address the issue. Adam Matthews, president of Sheffield University union and national coordinator for Real Solutions, said that 15 to 20 unions were now affiliated to the coalition.
NUS national executive member Jim Gardner said: "The national leadership is taking a strong stand on tuition fees. There is always a bit of uncertainty over the summer period. But the majority of student unions are behind the NUS line."