Successive governments have been committed to turning education into a business and students into consumers. Desperate to create a market at all costs, they are putting pressure on universities and colleges to act more like businesses: more interested in selling a product than ensuring a quality education for all.
This has resulted in a withdrawal of public funding for higher education, with the burden now upon students to fund their own education through ever-increasing mountains of debt.
In Further Education a fees and loans system has slowly been introduced for students over the age of 19 studying in college, whilst repetitive cuts have seen college budgets dramatically shrink across the board with 25 per cent cut from the adult skills budget alone.
As if it couldn’t get any worse, the current government want to raise fees even higher in HE through the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). This will allow universities to raise fees depending on how well they perform. They claim that this will improve the quality of our teaching, however its reliance on flawed and inconsistent metrics such as the National Students’ Survey (NSS) means it can do no such thing.
We believe that education must be a public good that is open to all, regardless of their ability to afford it.
Government want to privatize our education system, making it easier for private providers and business to gain access to public money and compete with existing institutions. Not only could we see student fees syphoned off to pay directors and shareholders, but we could also see many of these institutions fail, collapse, and provide substandard education; exploiting students and undermining the concept of universities as a social good. Let’s stop them.
What are we doing about it?
NUS has fought the government on their plans every step of the way. We launched the Quality Doesn’t Grow on Fees (#TEFOff) campaign and ensured key changes to their initial plans through mobilising Students’ Unions in opposition to it. We have delayed plans for differential fees, improved widening access, staved off attacks on the autonomy of students’ unions, and kept universities under the Freedom of Information Act.
Despite all of our efforts the Higher Education and Research Bill going through parliament still represents a threat. In response we have tabled a number of amendments to the Bill, provided written and verbal evidence to the Bill committee and have been supporting unions to lobby and influence their MPs and in local actions to shape their institution’s response.
What can you do to help?
For the next stage of our campaign we are urging students to boycott the National Students’ Survey. By refusing to fill in the survey, we can use the NSS for its true purpose: to show that we are incredibly dissatisfied. Thousands of students across the UK will be taking part in the boycott, and showing the government that they will not let their feedback be used against them.
NUS has set out plans, following extensive consultation, on the next phase of the Quality Doesn’t Grow on Fees #TEFOff campaign, and will provide unions with resources to take part in action to disrupt and protest against the TEF by boycotting (not filling in) the National Student Survey (NSS) as part of our wider campaign for a free, fairer, and more accessible education system.
Information and resources for the campaign can be found here. Join the pledge to join the boycott here.