THE TRADES Union Congress has said it is disappointed with the Dearing inquiry's proposals for the introduction of fee paying while ruling out means-tested loans for part-time students.
The TUC's response to the Dearing report says the inquiry's "vision" reinforces a "front-loaded" model of higher education, and "does not pay sufficient attention to how higher education can respond to the imperatives of lifelong learning and the needs of mature students".
A fuller assessment of who benefits from higher education, with the existing and future contribution from employers considered more seriously, is urgently needed, the TUC suggests.
The Dearing committee's funding proposals coupled with the suggestion that most expansion should take place at sub-degree level could lead to a financial disincentive for students taking sub-degree courses to transfer to do a degree in higher education.
"These students may be studying for four years and incurring four, rather than three, years of tuition fees," the TUC points out.
The congress says it is disappointed that the Dearing report did not pay more attention to how higher education could be more responsive to mature students. It is equally unhappy at little extra support for part-time students.
"To help part-timers who have no support from employers, additional funds for loans could be raised by a more sophisticated approach to the sale of the student loan book."
The TUC urges the government to review this and its decision to scrap maintenance grants.
Dearing's recommendations for research funding are unlikely to do much to improve research in institutions, the TUC suggests.
The TUC welcomes recommendations for the establishment of a one-off independent review committee to report on staff pay and conditions, but regrets the lack of any specific proposals to help hourly paid and fixed-term contract staff.