Friday, June 18, 2010

Open letter to Aaron Porter, NUS President-Elect, from the Free Education Campaign

Dear NUS President Aaron Porter,

The forthcoming year will be absolutely critical for students.

The new government has already set out its stall: £200 million of cuts to the higher education budget and 10,000 university places slashed.

These cuts come in the wake of the £1 billion cuts made to university budgets earlier this year.

At the same time the Tories seem to be lining up, alongside Vice Chancellors and big business, to back even higher tuition fees.

The Lib Dems MPs have formally agreed to abstain on any vote in Parliament if proposals to increase tuition fees are brought forward.

At NUS National Conference, delegates voted to support your Blueprint ‘Funding Our Future’ which argues that students should pay more for higher education than they already do, by replacing tuition fees with a graduate tax.

Delegates also voted against a motion to “oppose all education cuts” and instead backed your motion which insisted that “any cuts proposed to higher education finance must be carefully thought through, and must not come at the expense of students.”

In ‘Invest in Education – Not to Cuts: The case for greater state investment in higher education’ we set out a clear alternative. Using the government’s own figures we show how investing in free education would not only pay for itself, but would help to raise growth across the economy into the future. We believe that without investment in free education Britain will face relative economic decline.

This perspective is shared by Nobel prize-winning economist and former head of the World Bank, Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz who has said “{We need} investments in technology, education and infrastructure… such spending will stimulate the economy and create jobs in the short run and promote growth and debt reduction in the long run.”

Unfortunately, at National Conference instead of engaging in a serious debate about what position NUS should take in this critical year, you and your predecessor chose to rubbish our arguments as “pub economics.”

The debate at Conference also suffered from the fact that only a handful of 60 one minute speeches were allocated for each side.

Students need a proper, open debate on education funding policy, where both sides have equal opportunity to put forward their case and response - something which did not happen at this year’s NUS National Conference.

The Free Education Campaign, therefore, challenges you to a debate at the HE Cuts Conference (29th June) where you can defend NUS’ policy on education cuts and proposals for a graduate tax that you outline in ‘Funding Our Future.’

We look forward to your response.


Free Education Campaign

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