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Taking action in higher education

PM on university funding reveals foolish and contradictory policy, says UCU

9 January 2008 | last updated: 14 December 2015

UCU today said the prime minister's response to a question about funding changes for university degrees revealed the contradictory nature of the policy.

Asked at prime minister's questions by Mark Lancaster, Conservative MP for North East Milton Keynes, about the £100m of funding being withdrawn from students wishing to study a second degree equivalent to a qualification they already have, the prime minister cited the recent report by Lord Leitch that said 40 per cent of the country will need to be university educated by 2020 as a reason for the change.

Responding, UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said the fact that the economy needs people to re-skill and retrain at university highlighted the foolishness of a policy that restricted them from doing exactly that.

Sally Hunt said: 'Any changes to the funding of university degrees for people who wish to go back to university to retrain or refresh their skills would directly contradict the government's own lifelong learning agenda and the findings of the Leitch report, to which the prime minister referred.

'That report makes it clear that the economy needs people to retrain and refresh their skills. Not allowing them to do so would make a mockery of government rhetoric about Britain leading the way in a modern high-skilled world.'

In September, the government announced that, from 2008, £100m of funding for students who are studying for a higher education qualification that is equivalent to, or lower than, a qualification that they have already been awarded would be withdrawn.

UCU analysis of the impact of the change revealed the Open University would be worst hit losing over £31.6 million in teaching funding by 2014-15. Birkbeck College, University of London, would lose more than £7.8 million over the same period. Post-92 institutions feature prominently at the top of list of the biggest losers, although Oxford University comes in fourth and would lose over £4m.

The union's full analysis can be found here.