DEMANDS from higher education unions for an urgent meeting with Chancellor Gordon Brown and Education Secretary David Blunkett over funding plans are expected to win the backing of the Trades Union Congress when it meets next week.
A motion from the Association of University Teachers on the TUC's annual conference agenda condemns higher education budget cuts as "deplorable". Cuts have caused a rise in redundancies, serious salary shortfalls and an erosion of safeguards to academic freedom, the AUT claims.
"Congress calls on the general council to lead a delegation of the unions in higher education to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Education and Employment to seek explicit understandings on a programme to reverse the damage inflicted," it proposes.
The Government's higher and further education plans are almost certain to take a battering at the Brighton conference next week.
Lecturers' union Natfhe is proposing that the unions unite to challenge the Government's proposals for student support and tuition fees. The union wants "stronger measures to protect disadvantaged students and minimise student hardship and debt".
In other motions: * the Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists calls on the Government to give "urgent consideration" to Dearing's proposals to meet the "dire need of finance" for research
* Natfhe calls for urgent pressure to ensure that the local and regional role of institutions is strengthened
* Natfhe calls on the Government to give "high priority" and financial backing to Dearing's plans for widening access and improving lifelong learning and to strengthen the position of part-time students, "beyond Dearing"
* Natfhe calls for a greater contribution to university funding from employers, "in view of the benefits they draw from the system"
* the AUT calls for the creation of standing committees of the higher and further education funding councils, on which TUC representatives can advise on funding priorities.
Meanwhile, unions have welcomed the Government's welfare-to-work plans, and its plans to improve vocational training. The GMB calls on the Government to introduce a statutory obligation on employers to train their employees. Printing industry union, the GPMU, demands that the Government introduce a training levy, "with incentives that will ensure that training is placed on every company agenda".