Report from NUS Come Clean lobby
The National Union of Students (NUS) yesterday lobbied nearly 200 MPs at Westminster by holding a rally to demand that the government to “come clean” on hidden student costs.
With the support of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and members of the education establishment, the rally stepped the NUS’s “Come Clean” campaign up a gear.
The NUS kicked off the rally by addressing the issue of hidden course costs, and to claim that high tuition fees, a lack of bursaries and a lack of postgraduate student funding are pricing students out of university.
The lobbying, which involved meetings between unions and individual MPs, was designed to bring the issues into a debate in Parliament.
They urged MPs, including Conservatives MPs Jacob Rees-Mogg, Paul Maynard, Chris Grayling and Julian Brazier, to sign EDM 2953 which calls for a debate on the future of higher education policy and protection for students and staff, while also raising concerns about the higher education reforms.
It was later confirmed that although no solid promises had been made to debate the issue of hidden course costs in Parliament, the unions remained confident that they had received widespread support from a number of prominent figures in government.
The NUS claim that many of the most damaging reforms made to the education sector do not require legislation, making it harder to debate them and easier to pass through Parliament.
Speaking to a crowd of around 50 supporters in the Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground in the Chelsea College of Art and Design, NUS president Liam Burns said that although the government had scrapped the recent education reform bill, many changes to the education sector were being implemented without fair debate in Parliament.
Burns said: “Come Clean is about more than just hidden course costs, it’s about private institutions coming into the sector, bursaries being cut, and how you protect student loans in the long term.”
President of the University of the Arts London (UAL) Student Union Ben Westhead said that increased tuition fees were putting potential students off from going to university.
He said: “Students know that they are going to have this huge debt over their heads and the effect is even greater in an arts institution like UAL, because the creative industries have been attacked by the government through massive funding cuts.”
BA Fine Art student Nicholas Baldion, 22, echoes the sentiments.
“This campaign is crucial because if the issues raised aren’t dealt with by Parliament then we will continue to be walked all over, and the teaching budget for the university will continue to be cut behind closed doors,” he added.
Following the rally, students have been asked to follow up with their MPs and invite them to visit their university and student union to meet with students.
For more information on the campaign, visit the NUS website.