Policy failures drive Tory revival, warns UCU

September 25, 2008

The Government's higher education policies could be helping to boost support for the Conservatives, the University and College Union (UCU) has warned.

Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference this week, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said that an opinion poll by the union showed that Labour's approach was "failing badly".

The poll found that 29 per cent of the public believe that the Conservatives would do the best job in looking after universities' interests, compared with only 14 per cent who thought Labour would do best.

It found that only 16 per cent agree, or strongly agree, that Labour's introduction of student tuition fees had improved the standard of university education. It found that 55 per cent agree, or strongly agree, that university education should be provided at no cost to the student or their family.

Only 12 per cent agree that universities should be allowed to increase tuition fees further.

Ms Hunt said: "While it gives me little pleasure to criticise Labour, its approach is failing badly."

She added that the union was receiving appeals from younger members starting careers in higher education who could not afford to service their student loans on academic salaries.

"Inequalities in higher education will get worse if the top-up fees are raised," she said.

Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students, said that increasing the current £3,145 cap on fees would lead to a situation where some universities were able to offer a "Marks & Spencer" educational experience, while others were only able to provide "Tesco value" service.

He accused Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell, who was at the meeting, of failing to engage in debate on the effect of fees.

Mr Rammell said it would be wrong to pre-empt the results of the fees review, which is due to conclude in 2010.

He said there was a "progressive, redistributive case" for fees, as graduates benefited financially from their degrees.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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