the National Union of Students (NUS) is lobbying Parliament today against a threatened unlimited hike in university top up fees.
The NUS has called the action after it emerged earlier this week that two thirds of vice-chancellors are calling for fees to be raised by between £4,000 and £20,000 per year.
More than half of university heads said they want students to pay at least £5,000 per year, or for there to be no upper limit!
England’s Higher Education Minister David Lammy said in response there was an ‘important debate to be had’.
Today, Universities UK is launching a report showing that graduate debt will rise to over £32,000 if top up fees are allowed to rise to £7,000 a year.
Wes Streeting, National President of NUS, speaking about today’s lobby yesterday, said: ‘Students from across the country will be telling MPs why we need to abolish the disastrous top up fees system.
‘We are putting forward a radical proposal for an alternative system that is fairer for students, but still generates the kind of income the sector so badly needs.
‘The current recession is a stark reminder that excessive levels of debt are unhealthy, both for individuals and the economy.
‘We believe that higher education should be free at the point of use for all students, with graduates making a contribution according to how much they are benefitting financially from their own use of the system.
‘We also need to overhaul the shambolic current system of student support.
‘At the moment, bursaries vary hugely from one university to the next; we believe that financial support should be based on how much a student needs it, not where they happen to be studying.
‘We are calling on MPs from all parties to stop avoiding this issue and engage with us in a proper debate about how we can replace the catastrophic system of top up fees.’
The NUS leadership says it is urging the government to adopt its ‘five foundations’ for financing universities today, including the call for graduates to ‘make a contribution to the costs of higher education according to the true benefit while they work’.
But the way to fight unlimited fees is not by calling for a ‘graduate tax’.
The present NUS leadership accepts tuition fees and has no intention of fighting against them, merely opposing them being ‘topped up’.
University and College Union General Secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘A recent YouGov poll revealed that, as well as opposing any increase in fees, the majority of people in Britain back a university funding system that is at no cost to the student or their family.
‘UCU believes we need a fair system where every potential student has the opportunity to maximise their potential, irrespective of how much their parents may be willing to pay or what they can actually afford themselves.
‘Increasing fees or the other financial barriers that so many students and parents come up against when considering university is certainly not the way to deliver a world-class university system.’