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Lancaster University Students’ Union (LUSU) is backing the National Union of Students’ (NUS) campaign calling for the Government to ‘come clean’ on issues to do with student funding and Higher Education reform. Week 19 will see the Union launch its own ‘Come Clean’ week of action in order to raise awareness on the changes faced by both current and prospective students of Higher Education.
Responding to the decision to shelve the proposed Higher Education Reform Bill, the NUS is instigating a week of action, called ‘Come Clean on Student Funding’, from Monday March 12th to Friday 16th. Students will be encouraged to participate in any way they can, including walking out of lectures in a national show of solidarity on Wednesday 14th.
Whilst LUSU President, George Gardiner, has stated that LUSU will not be organising a local walk-out here at Lancaster, he affirmed that the Union will support those who wish to take the unilateral decision to register their support of the campaign in this manner. On this day, there will also be a ‘visual campaign’ in Alexandra Square; students may sign up to mark their opposition to the privatisation of Higher Education institutes, one of the proposals that was to be put forward in the now defunct bill.
Furthermore, on April 18th, Gardiner will be one of those set to lobby MPs to keep decisions regarding the future of Higher Education in the sight of Parliament as a whole, rather than taking ‘back-door’ initiatives that are not held to account through Parliamentary debate. The decision to shelve the Higher Education Reform Bill in January of this year has provoked concern for the legitimacy of decisions taken without being subjected to thorough scrutiny in the Houses of Commons and Lords.
On the issue of the need for political clarity, Gardiner said, “[By] dropping the HE Bill and taking the changes through other routes, the government is not being democratic or transparent.”
Gardiner’s major concern is that in shelving the proposal for reform, the Government would be able to make changes to the way universities are run without having secured a general consensus of opinion, meaning that the opportunity to oppose and vote against undesirable changes, as may be argued by MPs on behalf of their constituents, would be lost.
Gardiner is intent on keeping the reform-process “subject to the correct, legitimate scrutiny” so as to avoid the danger of public funding being diverted away from institutions such as Lancaster and into the pockets of unregulated private institutions, as has been suggested as a possible model of privatisation based upon the university system currently operating in America.
A localised agenda for LUSU’s week of action is the lobbying of the University itself regarding transparency over course fees and student funding. The Union wants students to speak out on the 14th by making known the expenses they face in addition to the publicised tuition fees, as LUSU believes that prospective students deserve to gain an idea of the hidden costs they may face throughout their pursuit of a degree.
Gardiner explained, “The University should be clear on this and moreover, should be working hard with LUSU to establish how to cover additional course costs that students face. This is just part of an on-going campaign and we will continue to lobby the University on course costs beyond this day of action.”