Student loans fall-out

June 16, 1995

Contrary to the impression given by your report of the National Union of Students' extraordinary conference in Derby on education funding (THES, June 2), the decision it took to campaign for free education was by no means due simply to ultra-left factions. Hard-left groups had about 120 of the 684 delegates: the deciding factor was the votes of non-aligned delegates, not of a Trotskyist fringe. Support for free education came from large unions such as Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

Many non-aligned delegates were appalled at the undemocratic timing of the conference, deliberately called by unions supporting Maintenance Income Contingent Loans (MICL) during the exam period.

They understood that MICL will discriminate against women graduates. Earning less than their male counterparts, they will remain in debt for longer. MICL will ensure that students who cannot rely on support from their parents will endure debt, while their wealthier colleagues do not. Non-aligned delegates realised what a fundamentally inequitable system MICL is. It is sad that both the media and the NUS leadership persist in labelling myself and others extremists simply because we want to see NUS oppose injustice.

Catherine Fletcher

Women's Officer

University of Liverpool

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