Leaked NUS memo calls HE reforms ‘progressive’

Posted: 17/02/2011 by Eddie Unity in Local Actions - Education

Original Post By Sunny Hundal


The Times tonight has published extracts of a memo leaked from the National Union of Students that will cast an even deeper shadow over its embattled leader Aaron Porter.

The newspaper reports (paywall) that the memo, circulated to NUS officers, appears to contradict its own stance of opposing the government’s Higher Education reforms.

Curiously however, the Times has not posted the full memo online.

The article states:

A memo from the National Union of Students (NUS), seen by The Times, advises its elected student officers that campaigning against high fees could backfire and that they should hold talks with their universities instead.

The NUS has publicly opposed any rise in tuition fees but the briefing note appears to contradict that stance, calling the Government’s higher education reforms “progressive”. It also admits that funding cuts are not as drastic as the union has claimed.

The five-page briefing note was aimed at NUS officers on campuses and focused on discussions on increasing fees.

The article goes on to say:

Aimed particularly at universities in the Russell Group and the 1994 Group of smaller research universities, it cautions NUS officers against trying to stop universities setting the maximum fee. It says that “simply campaigning for a low fee might not generate the results you require (especially inside the Russell and 1994 Group)”.

On the reforms of student finance, with a high repayment threshold and payments spread over 30 years, the note says that “the vastly increased numbers of graduates that will never pay the loan off are in fact what makes the system relatively progressive”.

Bizarrely enough, Porter himself has been highlighting in the news that most universities will end up charging the maximum £9000 amount.

In the Times article, Porter defends the memo’s advice saying he only called the loan repayments system “a small progressive element within a deeply regressive package”.

There is no official statement by the NUS however.

It also points out that many radical student groups have decided to back Essex university graduate Mark Bergfeld to challenge Aaron Porter at the NUS elections in April.


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