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UCU response to Queen's Speech

11 May 2021 | last updated: 12 May 2021

Responding to the Queen's Speech today in which the government outlined its plans to reform post-16 skills and education, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

On further education: 

'The government talks about the need for outstanding colleges, but these measures will do nothing to repair the harm caused by a decade of neglect and cuts. If ministers really want to ensure our colleges can deliver the skills needed to recover from the pandemic, level-up and build a green economy, its priority must be sustained investment in the sector and fair pay for college staff - not extending a disastrous student loan system to colleges.'

On student loans: 

'Following a year in which the fees-based funding model has wreaked havoc in universities, the government is doubling down on this failed system. These proposals will push more and more people into debt to pay for their education. We need a different approach to post-16 education funding which provides long-term security, and puts the interests of students and staff first. Education is a public good. It must be free and publicly funded to provide lifelong access for all.' 

On freedom of speech:  

'There are serious threats to freedom of speech and academic freedom from campus, but they come from the government and university managers, not staff and students. Widespread precarious employment strips academics of the ability to speak and research freely, and curtails chances for career development. Free speech and academic freedom are threatened more widely on campus by government interference in the form of the Prevent duty, and attempts to impose the IHRA definition and examples of antisemitism on universities. 

'If the government wants to strengthen freedom of speech and academic freedom, it shouldn't be policing what can and cannot be said on campus, and encourage university managers to move staff onto secure, permanent contracts.' 

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