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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 December 2009

Comment

NUS plans mean students pay

Not content with ditching its commitment to free higher education, the National Union of Students (NUS) is now lobbying the government to introduce a funding system that would actually charge most students even more for their degrees than at present.

The NUS, dominated by Labour Party members, abandoned its commitment to abolishing all tuition fees in April 2008 in an attempt to appear 'credible' to its friends in government.

Just how low the NUS is willing to stoop in search of 'credibility' has now become clear. In summer 2009 it published its blueprint for a new university funding system, called 'Funding our Future'. Under the plans, students would pay for their degrees through a 'graduate tax' from their income during the first 20 years of their working lives.

However, the NUS' figures will in effect make most full-time undergraduate degrees more expensive. If you earn an average of £27,500 a year during the first 20 years of your working life - about average for graduates - the eventual price tag on your degree would be likely to total around £15,240 under the NUS' plans.

This is above the £13,738 you would pay under the current maximum top-up fees of £3,225 per year, with interest on loan repayments factored in at an assumed 3.5% rate.

In other words, the cost of a three-year full-time undergraduate degree would rise by more than 10% for the average UK student under the NUS' plans.

Low-earning graduates would pay less than at present, while higher earners would be hit harder - but most graduates would end up paying more than they do now.

But why is the NUS proposing such a bad deal for students? Once again, the reason is its determination to gain 'credibility' with the Labour government.

Graeme Wise, NUS political officer, told student newspaper London Student: "We could easily have published a version of the blueprint where the average person would pay the same as under the status quo - but it would have been taken much less seriously as a result."

In other words, the NUS was terrified that if it didn't ensure that students were worse off under its plans, it wouldn't be taken seriously by the government. So it promptly sold out the students it is supposed to represent.

There's more. Wise went on to explain that the blueprint "was designed to 'compete' in policy terms with fees if they were raised to £5,000pa, not fees at the present level.

"We felt that in order to ensure the work was politically credible, it needed to offer an alternative to increased fees and deliver more resources to the higher education sector in the long-term."

There is, of course, an alternative to increased fees that would deliver more much-needed resources to universities. It's called free education, funded through progressive taxation.

And while the NUS has given up the fight, others have not. In London alone, Goldsmiths, SOAS, LSE and Birkbeck student unions have passed policy supporting free education, while UCL Union backed free education at the same time as rejecting a motion endorsing the NUS blueprint.

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In The Socialist 2 December 2009:

Climate change 'gigantic market failure'

Copenhagen climate change talks


Socialist Party NHS campaign

National Health Service: Patient safety not private profit


Youth fight for jobs

Youth march for jobs: "A fantastic experience"


Credit crunch

Dubai's house of sand crumbles


War and occupation

Chilcot inquiry: Put the warmongers on trial!


Socialist Party news and analysis

Fast news

Yorkshire strikes - the lessons

BA management get tough

Fighting university cuts

Fighting council cuts in Greenwich

Stoke Axiom action continues

Defend the Four!

NUS plans mean students pay


Anti-racism

Rally to oppose racist EDL

How mass campaigning closed BNP HQ


International socialist news and analysis

Irish Republic: Huge public sector workers' strike against cutbacks

Indonesia: Eyewitness report from Tamil refugee boat


Socialist Party election campaign

Politics 'illegal' in Lewisham council

Help give a socialist answer to cuts and privatisation


Marxist analysis: history

Liverpool council's budget 'black hole': Establishment parties only offer swingeing cuts


 

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