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Labour Party gets ball rolling ahead of 2015 universities election debate

28 August 2014

UCU today welcomed plans to reform Britain's universities from Shadow Universities Minister, Liam Byrne. The union said his contribution, published by the Social Market Foundation (SMF) think tank, should kickstart the debate on how to fund universities ahead of next year's general election.

UCU said there was not enough debate about university funding ahead of the 2010 election and feared the Liberal Democrats' u-turn on university fees could have left some politicians reticent to revisit the area. However, the union added that all the parties had to clearly set out how they would fund such an important part of the economy.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'The Labour Party should be applauded for putting higher education on the agenda ahead of the election. Before the 2010 election there was not enough debate around how universities would be funded, and the Liberal Democrats' u-turn on tuition fees prompted fears that politicians may try and avoid the issue this time round.

'Our universities are absolutely vital to the economy and our standing on the global stage. While there is never a shortage of warm words from politicians of all stripes when it comes to universities and their achievements, warm words alone will not maintain our proud record. We need all parties to clearly set out how they will fund their proposals for one of the most important areas of our economy.'

The union has devised a series of questions* which will act as a basic test for new policy or funding initiatives ahead of the election. The questions look at whether proposals are fair for all students, will be able to attract and retain staff, improve research facilities and offer the broadest possible choice of courses.

*The six tests to be applied by UCU to any policy or funding initiatives are:

  1. Will the proposal make it easier for people to reach their full potential?
  2. Will the proposal increase our academic capacity and research base?
  3. Will the proposal make the UK a more attractive place for academic staff to work?
  4. Will the proposal make it less costly for individuals to study, whether young or old?
  5. Will the proposal broaden the range of subjects available for study?
  6. Will the proposal lead to higher quality and reduced fragmentation in the sector?

Last updated: 10 December 2015