Unions propose lower fees for the children of staff

John Morgan reports on a Unite proposal seen as a way to boost benefits for lower-paid employees

June 24, 2010

The children of higher education staff would be given full or partial discounts on university tuition fees under proposals put forward by unions.

The UK's five campus unions say in their joint pay and conditions claim for 2010-11 that they require talks with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association on "the principle of fee remission for children of higher education staff".

The scheme would mean students being given remission on fees to study at the university or college where a parent is a member of staff.

Tuition fees are capped at £3,290 a year for the 2010-11 academic year, but some universities have called for the cap to be raised by the ongoing Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance, led by Lord Browne of Madingley.

Mike Robinson, national education officer for Unite, the union leading the fee remission call, said: "With the increasing costs of entering university, it would directly benefit low-paid staff who would not have any other way of sending their children to university."

He added: "At a time when direct pay increases are likely to be squeezed, then allowing other benefits is one way of getting a decent package."

On whether fee remission could apply to all pay grades across higher education, Mr Robinson said: "We're not opposed to the principle of academics getting a direct benefit from their work at universities. Clearly, if it has to be an equity-based system, you can't discriminate between one level or another."

The fee remission discussions are "in principle" only at present and details of the proposed scheme have yet to be agreed, Mr Robinson said.

There was no firm position on whether remission should be full or partial, he added, but any scheme would have to be "tax efficient".

It is likely that critics of such a system would argue that it could divert funds to the children of academics, who may be more likely to go to university anyway.

However, several universities already detail fee remission schemes for children of staff on their websites.

The University of Liverpool says: "Children of eligible staff members are entitled to 50 per cent remission at 'home fees' rate for all years of undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes of study."

Bursaries and fee remission for children of teaching staff is also commonplace at private schools.

However, the Times Educational Supplement has reported that some schools are cancelling these schemes as they are under pressure from the Charity Commission to offer reduced fees to children from disadvantaged families instead.

The National Union of Students said it did not wish to comment on the proposals, as higher education pay and conditions talks are ongoing.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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