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UCU calls for tuition fees axe to repair broken system

27 February 2020 | last updated: 28 February 2020

UCU says university tuition fees should be scrapped to widen participation and encourage collaboration in higher education

The union was responding to a report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), 'Making Universities Matter', which proposes that students whose parents didn't go to university should be offered the first year of their degree tuition-free.

UCU said that the proposal would still leave students with excessive debt and called for a wider overhaul of university funding which would see fees scrapped altogether and maintenance grants reintroduced.

The union said a new funding model was also needed to underpin the report's calls for more collaboration between education institutions. It said that the current model which forces universities to compete for students only deepens issues with workload and casualisation that lie at the heart of the current strikes over pay and conditions.

UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: 'Tackling barriers to higher education is crucial for social justice and should be high on the government's agenda, but the current funding system is broken and needs more than piecemeal reform.

'Even with a year of free tuition, under the current system the poorest students would still graduate with over £40,000 of debt, which would still be incredibly off-putting for many. The best way to ensure that everyone who wants to go to university can do so is to scrap fees altogether, and reintroduce maintenance grants so that no student has to face a mountain of debt after graduation.

'If we want a more collaborative higher education system we also need to move away from a funding model where institutions are encouraged to compete with each other in a race to attract students. The current marketised system only compounds the problems of chronic work overload and precarious employment that are at the heart of the current dispute over pay and conditions.'