Universities failing to consult students on access - NUS

Two-thirds of universities have failed to adequately consult students on their access agreements, the National Union of Students has claimed.

March 5, 2012

Based on a survey of students’ unions, the NUS said 67 per cent of universities did not listen enough to student representatives when drawing up financial support plans for undergraduates.

Of 36 students’ unions polled, 24 felt they had not been consulted adequately, while six unions said there had been no consultation at all.

Seven unions said they had experienced only “cursory consultation” on their institution’s proposed policy on fee waivers, bursaries and scholarships for autumn 2012.

The new findings come despite guidance for institutions published by the Office for Fair Access in March 2011 that recommended institutions consult with students’ unions when creating their new access agreements.

Liam Burns, NUS president, said: “Universities are spending students’ fees on access measures and we should have our opinions not only heard but properly listened and responded to.

“Students’ unions can be positive and constructive partners in the process of developing access agreements if they are properly engaged from the start.

“Too many universities aren’t open to genuine input for students’ unions when developing their access agreements and if they won’t voluntarily engage with their students then Offa must compel them to do so.”

A number of universities changed their access agreements late in 2011, moving away from offering upfront bursaries towards fee waivers, which are likely to benefit only higher earning graduates.

Sir Martin Harris, director of fair access to higher education, said: “We have been working closely with the NUS to identify ways in which we can encourage universities and colleges to consult students when drawing up their plans for outreach and financial support. Our guidance to institutions on their access agreements for 2013-14 will give greater detail on this.

“Student unions who wish to comment on their university’s access agreement have always been able to do so and we will continue to welcome this.”

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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