Simon Hughes's access report is too late and has all the authority of the Lib Dems' fee pledge

20 July 2011 | last updated: 11 December 2015

UCU today questioned the point of Simon Hughes's report on access to education.

The union said there was little point in a report published after key decisions on access had been taken and added that it had all the authority of the Liberal Democrats' famously broken pledge to vote against any increase in university fees.
UCU said the report contained ideas for some schemes that sound remarkably similar to ones the government recently axed, such as Aimhigher. The union suggested an access tsar should have been appointed, and reported, before:

  • The education maintenance allowance (funding to help teenagers to stay on at college) was scrapped
  • Widening access scheme, Aimhigher (which encouraged people from poorer backgrounds to consider university), was axed
  • All universities' fee levels for 2012 were rubberstamped - the average fee for the 2012 academic year is £8,393, as was revealed just last week*
  • The future jobs fund (which provided training alongside work) was scrapped and careers advice funding was slashed.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Given that EMA has been scrapped, university fees have trebled, Aimhigher, careers advice centres and the future jobs fund have gone what exactly is the point of this report? Surely any such report should have been commissioned, and published, before important access to education decisions were made?
'However well-meaning this report may be, it has all the authority of the Liberal Democrats' pledge to vote against a rise in university fees.'

*During the debate on the increase of university fees, Simon Hughes said fees of above £6,000 would be the exception rather than the rule. In the vote on university fee rises, Mr Hughes abstained.