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Lecturers back anti-fees fight, UCU tells student demo

30 October 2006 | last updated: 15 December 2015

UCU joint general secretary, Paul Mackney, today told a rally of thousands of students from across the UK that lecturers fully back their call for an abolition of all university fees.

Mr Mackney spoke in Trafalgar Square, London, at the National Union of Students' rally against increasing levels of student debt. Following a mass demonstration through central London, Mr Mackney addressed the crowd at the organisation's 'Admission:Impossible' rally.

Paul Mackney said: 'It was students and lecturers who said that increasing tuition fees would turn certain people off university and it was us who warned that a market in higher education would lead to students choosing courses based on cost not suitability. I very much doubt it is just students and lecturers who are surprised that we were right.

'Anyone who believes that charging more for degrees is the way to encourage the most able candidates to apply to, or even consider, university is living in a dream world. The government only sneaked this punitive legislation through the last Parliament because of its huge majority.

'However, we must be under no illusion that it will be easier to stop them raising the cap in a few years' time. Especially now the Tories have ditched their opposition to higher fees, exposing the policy for the pure opportunism that it was. We now must focus on again winning the argument that higher and variable fees can never solve the problem of chronic underfunding in our universities.

'We are the fourth largest economy in the world. Ministers constantly warn us that we need to raise the skills base to keep up with the rest of the world and to compete with the large number of graduates coming out of the emerging economies. Yet, the government still refuses to properly fund higher education.

'Access to a university education must be based on a student's aptitude and willingness to learn, not what they are prepared to pay.'

Paul Mackney joined the other speakers, including NUS National President, Gemma Tumelty, John Trickett, MP for Hemsworth, and Tony Benn, at a launch of 3,000 balloons to represent the spiralling cost of university tuition fees.

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