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General election 2019: manifesto comparisons

Ahead of the general election on 12 December, UCU has looked at how the main political parties' promises on education stack up. On this page, we have highlighted the main manifesto pledges each of the parties are making in relation to the priorities outlined in UCU's own manifesto.

    Comparing the party manifestos

    The UCU manifesto said prioritise long-term investment in post-16 education by:

    • Scrapping tuition fee loans in further and higher education and replacing fees with direct grant funding
    • Restoring the adult education budget to 2010 levels
    • Reintroducing maintenance grants for students in further and higher education
    • Committing to long-term membership of the EU Horizon Europe programme

    Political parties have pledged to:

    Conservative Party icon Conservative Party

    Introduce a £3bn National Skills Fund to provide match funding for individuals and SMEs for high-quality education and training.

    Continue with investment of almost £2 billion to upgrade the further education college estate.

    Continue development of 20 Institutes of Technology, connecting STEM teaching to business and industry.

    Use £500 million from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to replace EU skills funding lost as a result of Brexit.

    Boost English language teaching to empower existing migrants and help promote integration into society.

    Consider the Augar Review recommendations on tuition fee levels and the balance of funding between universities, further education and apprenticeships and adult learning.

    Look at the interest rates on loan repayments with a view to reducing the burden of debt on students.

    Invest in local adult education.

    Help employers invest in skills and look at how we can improve the working of the Apprenticeship Levy.

    Commit to meet our target of 2.4 per cent of GDP being spent on R&D across the economy, some of which will go to a new agency for high-risk, high-payoff research.

    Focus efforts on life sciences, clean energy, space, design, computing, robotics and artificial intelligence.

    Continue to collaborate internationally and with the EU on scientific research, including Horizon.


    Labour Party icon Labour Party

    Give everyone a free lifelong entitlement to training up to Level 3 and six years' training at Levels 4-6, with maintenance grants for disadvantaged learners.

    Align the base rate of per-pupil funding in post-16 education with Key Stage 4.

    Bring back the Education Maintenance Allowance.

    Restore funding for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

    Restore and expand the Union Learning Fund.

    Abolish tuition fees and bring back maintenance grants in higher education.

    Introduce a training bursary for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.

    Make it easier for employers to spend the apprenticeship levy by allowing it to be used for a wider range of accredited training,

    Provide targeted bursaries to women, BAME people, care leavers, ex-armed forces personnel, and people with disabilities to encourage them to take up climate apprenticeships.

    Set a target for 3% of GDP to be spent on research and development (R&D) by 2030.

    Lib Dem icon Liberal Democrat

    Introduce new Skills Wallets for every adult in England, giving them £10,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives. The government will put in £4,000 at age 25, £3,000 at age 40 and £3,000 at age 55.

    Expand the apprenticeship levy into a wider 'Skills and Training Levy' with 25 per cent of the funds raised by the levy going into a 'Social Mobility Fund' targeted at areas with the greatest skill needs.

    Invest an extra £1 billion in Further Education funding, including by refunding colleges for the VAT they pay.

    Undertake a major expansion of high-quality apprenticeships including Higher Apprenticeships, backed up by new sector-led National Colleges.

    Seek to solve skills gaps such as the lack of advanced technicians by expanding higher vocational training like foundation degrees, Higher National Diplomas, Higher National Certificates and Higher Apprenticeships.

    Introduce a 'Young People's Premium' based on the same eligibility criteria as the Pupil Premium with a portion paid directly to young people aged 16-18.

    Reinstate higher education maintenance grants for the poorest students.

    Establish a review of higher education finance in the next parliament.

    Increase national spending on research and development to 3% of GDP, via an interim target of 2.4% by 2027.

    Support innovation, with a goal of doubling innovation spending across the economy.

    Green Party icon Green Party

    Invest £2 billion a year in training and skills (including new apprenticeships), to help people access the new, decent jobs created through the transition to a low carbon economy.

    Revive the further education sector to provide a wider choice of academic and vocational learning.

    Raise the funding rate for 16-17-year-olds, followed by an annual rise in line with inflation.

    Give local authorities the power to direct the newly created training and skills programmes.

    Fully fund every higher education student and scrap undergraduate tuition fees. University will be fully accessible, with courses being offered as learning experiences, not as pre-work training.

    Write off existing debt for former students who studied under the £9k tuition fee regime.

    Increase funding for adult education across England and Wales, creating a range of new adult education programmes for learners to access. These programmes will be integrated with Green New Deal training projects.


    The UCU manifesto said make international staff and students welcome in the UK by:

    • Scrapping the net migration target, the minimum salary threshold for skilled workers and prohibitive visa costs
    • Protecting and extending freedom of movement
    • Ensuring the immigration system supports staff to spend extended periods overseas for research and knowledge exchange
    • Retaining access to the Erasmus+ scheme

    Political parties have pledged to:

    Conservative Party icon Conservative Party

    Introduce a firmer and fairer Australian-style points-based immigration system, establishing immigration controls and ending freedom of movement.

    Enable EU citizens who came to live in the UK before Brexit to stay -guaranteeing their existing rights through the EU Settlement Scheme.

    Prioritise people who have a good grasp of English, have been law-abiding citizens in their own countries, and have good education and qualifications.

    Increase the immigration health surcharge to ensure it covers the full cost of use.

    Introduce a student visa to help universities attract talented young people and allow those students to stay on to apply for work here after they graduate.

    Labour Party icon Labour Party

    Secure a new Brexit deal and hold a 'Final Say' referendum with the choice of remaining in the EU, or leaving with a deal.

    Scrap the 2014 Immigration Act.

    Seek to protect freedom of movement in the event of Brexit.

    End the deportation of family members of people entitled to be here and the minimum income requirements which separate families.

    Ensure that refugees have the right to work and access public services.

    Lib Dem icon Liberal Democrat

    Revoke article 50 to stop Brexit, or fight for a people's vote with the option to stay in the EU.

    Scrap the Conservatives' hostile environment.

    Replace Tier 2 work visas with a more fexible merit-based system.

    Introduce a 'Training up Britain' programme to make the most of migrants' skills.

    Introduce a new two-year visa for students to work after graduation.

    Reduce the fee for registering a child as a British citizen from £1,012 to the cost of administration.

    Abolish the minimum income requirement for spouse and partner visas.

    Green Party icon Green Party

    Push for a People's Vote, with Remain as an option on the ballot paper, and campaign for EU reform.

    Guarantee the rights of EU citizens and their families living in the UK, including the right to automatic settled status and ensure there is no rolling back of the rights and protections enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

    Scrap the Home Office, and create a Ministry for Sanctuary (responsible for enforcing migration rules) and a Ministry of the Interio (to oversee domestic security).

    End the hostile environment which puts migrants, from the EU and further afield, at risk and increases racism and anti-immigrant sentiment.

    Scrap health charging for migrants.

    Replace 'Prevent' with community cohesive policing.

    The UCU manifesto said tackle the managerialist culture in education by:

    • Scrapping damaging metrics, including the Teaching Excellence Framework and Research Excellence Framework
    • Abolishing Ofsted and working with trade unions to develop a more constructive alternative
    • Empowering prison educators by ditching the current commissioning model and shifting oversight of prison education to sit alongside other parts of the education system.

    Political parties have pledged to:

    Conservative Party icon Conservative Party

    Reform the science funding system to cut the time wasted by scientists filling in forms.

    Continue to explore ways to tackle the problem of grade inflation and low quality courses.

    Create a prisoner education service focused on work-based training and skills.

    Strengthen academic freedom and free speech in universities and continue to focus on raising standards.


    Labour Party icon Labour Party

    Transform the Office for Students from a market regulator to a body of the National Education Service, acting in the public interest.

    Fundamentally rethink the assessment of research and teaching quality in higher education.

    Reverse the fragmentation and privatisation of further and adult education, incorporating it into a single national system of regulation.

    Replace Ofsted and transfer responsibility for inspections to a new body.

    Lib Dem icon Liberal Democrat

    Raise standards in universities by strengthening the Office for Students, to make sure all students receive a high-quality education.

    Improve the provision of training and education opportunities in prisons.

    Establish an independent body of education experts to oversee any future curriculum changes.

    Green Party icon Green Party

    Replace OFSTED with a collaborative system.

    Enhance the rehabilitation services on offer to long-term prisoners, commissioning rehabilitation services that have a track record of success.


    The UCU manifesto said make university admissions fairer by:

    • Banning the use of unconditional offers
    • Moving towards a post-qualification admissions (PQA) system where offers are based on achievement rather than predictions
    • Increasing funding for information, advice and guidance to ensure that all students and potential students can access support

    Political parties have pledged to:

    Conservative Party icon Conservative Party

    Improve the application and offer system for undergraduate students.

    Require the Office for Students to look at universities' success in increasing access across all ages, not just young people entering full-time undergraduate degrees.

    Labour Party icon Labour Party

    Introduce post-qualification admissions in higher education, and work with universities to ensure contextual admissions are used across the system.

    Reform existing careers advice, working towards an integrated information, advice and guidance system that covers the entire education system.

    Develop a new funding formula that widens access to higher education and reverses the decline of part-time learning.

    Lib Dem icon Liberal Democrat

    Ensure that all universities work to widen participation by disadvantaged and underrepresented groups across the sector, prioritising their work with students in schools and colleges.

    Require every university to be transparent about selection criteria.

    Green Party icon Green Party

    Ensure education isfully accessible, with courses being offered as learning experiences, not as pre-work training.


    The UCU manifesto said put skills at the heart of the climate transition by:

    • Introducing a green new deal to encourage a sustainable industrial strategy and workforce
    • Promoting and funding skills training and job creation to meet the needs of Britain's rapidly growing low-carbon sectors and to green the whole economy
    • Embedding sustainable development across the curriculum at all levels
    • Demanding all colleges and universities develop local carbon reduction strategies

    Political parties have pledged to:

    Conservative Party icon Conservative Party

    Deliver two million new high quality jobs in clean growth.

    Invest £500 million to help energy-intensive industries move to low-carbon techniques.

    Bring forward an Environment Bill to guarantee that we will protect and restore our natural environment after leaving the EU.

    Labour Party icon Labour Party

    Introduce a £250bn Green Transformation Fund

    Create at least one million well-paid, unionised jobs as part of the Green Industrial Revolution.

    Launch a Climate Apprenticeship programme, with employers expected to allocate 25% of the funds in their Apprenticeship Levy accounts to training Climate Apprentices

    Lib Dem icon Liberal Democrat

    Develop a national skills strategy for key sectors, including zero-carbon technologies, to help match skills and people.

    Introduce a Just Transition Fund to support communities negatively affected by policies to tackle the climate emergency.

    Increase government expenditure on climate and environmental objectives, reaching at least 5% of the total within 5 years.

    Green Party icon Green Party

    Invest over £100 billion a year in a Green New Deal to develop new jobs, skills and homes.

    Invest in training and skills to help people develop and apply the skills needed in new jobs in rural areas which shift away from intensive farming towards smaller-scale, more people-focussed food production and land management that respects nature.  

    Boost the repair and recondition sector with new apprenticeship schemes.


    The UCU manifesto said properly invest in the education workforce by:

    • Eradicating the use of zero-hours contracts
    • Strengthening requirements on publicly-funded education providers to provide secure employment contracts and address equality pay gaps
    • Promoting effective action on excessive workloads
    • Increasing transparency around senior pay in colleges and universities, and linking it to staff pay
    • Empowering staff and students by strengthening their role in education governance
    • Returning further education colleges to local democratic control and closing the £7,000 pay gap between school and college teachers
    • Commissioning a review of pension governance to ensure that all schemes are fully accountable to their members

    Political parties have pledged to:

    Conservative Party icon Conservative Party

    Ensure that workers have the right to request a more predictable contract and other reasonable protections.

    Encourage flexible working and consult on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to.

    Labour Party icon Labour Party

    Require all companies bidding for public contracts to recognise trade unions

    Give workers the right to accrue paid time off for education and training.

    Improve higher education funding to end the casualisation of staff.

    Ban zero-hour contracts and strengthening the law so that those who work regular hours for more than 12 weeks will have a right to a regular contract, reflecting those hours.

    Require employers to devise and implement plans to eradicate the gender pay gap - and pay inequalities underpinned by race and/or disability - or face fines, and give statutory rights to equalities representatives.

    Remove unfair and unnecessary restrictions on trade unions.

    Within a decade, reduce average full-time weekly working hours to 32 across the economy.

    Give working people a voice at the Cabinet table by establishing a Ministry for Employment Rights.

    Introduce a new, unified Workers' Protection Agency to enforce workplace rights.

    Lib Dem icon Liberal Democrat

    Give a right to request a fixed-hours contract after 12 months for 'zero hours' and agency workers, not to be unreasonably refused.

    Reviewing rules concerning pensions so that those in the gig economy don't lose out, and portability between roles is protected.

    Strengthen the ability of unions to represent workers effectively in the modern economy, including a right of access to workplaces.

    Green Party icon Green Party

    Ensure the maximum wage paid to any member of staff in an organisation should not exceed ten times that paid (pro rata) to the lowest paid worker in the same organisation.

    Ensure that workers on short-term contracts always receive at least the current minimum wage, and have job security, sick leave, holiday pay and pension provision.

    Require all large and medium size companies to carry out equal pay audits.

    Require all employers, no matter their size, to legally recognise any union chosen by their workforce to represent them.

    Support employers to explore four day working weeks.

    Phase in the introduction of a Universal Basic Income (UBI).

    You can download the full party manifestos here:

    Conservative Party icon  Conservative Party


    Labour Party icon  Labour Party


    Lib Dem icon  Liberal Democrat


    Green Party icon  Green Party


    The comparison tables on this page is for the main parties operating UK-wide. You can download a comparison for the main parties contesting seats in Scotland and Wales here:

    You can access the full manifestos for parties standing in Northern Ireland here:

    Last updated: 12 December 2019