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UCU response to the budget

21 March 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

UCU today said the chancellor needed to demonstrate his commitment to all areas of education. The union welcomed the extra money for the education sector, but warned that much more needed to be done if the UK was to really lead the way in education. It also cautioned against plans to sell off student loans.

UCU joint general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'All politicians tell us that education is a priority - some repeat the mantra three times. Rhetoric alone cannot support our universities and colleges, especially if the challenging participation targets in the Leitch Report are to be realised.

'The increase in the percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spent on education to 5.6% is welcome. However, part of that increase has come from charging university tuition fees. When the DfES and the devolved governments come to divvy up the overall education budget they must look to increase spending on further and higher education.

'We want public spending on higher education to rise as a proportion of GDP to the international average. UCU has called on the government to use the forthcoming comprehensive spending review (CSR) to bring Britain in line with countries such as America and our European neighbours.

'More money for employers to fund training is to be welcomed and hopefully the reduction in corporation tax will prompt companies into significantly increasing their outlay on training and career development. However, there was sadly no mention of how the government intends to address the funding and pay gap between our colleges and schools.'

Commenting on the news the government is planning a £6billion sale of the student loan book, Sally Hunt said: 'This appears to be a short-term strategy as the government will ultimately lose money in the long-term from repaid debts. Let's not forget that few private companies have a proud record of taking over the running of systems like student loans.

'We need assurances from government that the money raised will be ploughed back into higher education and not used to replace public funding. Furthermore, as students are forced to borrow more to meet the cost of their university education, we need a guarantee that the interest rate on student loans will not rise.'

International comparisons

Public funding on higher education as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) is lower in the UK than America and lower than the OECD and European averages.

Public spending on higher education as a percentage of GDP:

United States 1.2%
OECD average 1.1%
European average 1.1%
United Kingdom 0.8%

2003 data, published by OECD in 2006