Government arrogant and contradictory on ELQs, says UCU

The government's response to a highly critical parliamentary committee report on cuts in funding for second-time higher education students was arrogant and contradictory, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said today.

Commenting on the government's response to the report of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee on withdrawal of funding for equivalent or lower level qualifications (ELQs), UCU condemned the refusal of the government to back down.

The decision to withdraw £100m funding from large swathes of students taking an equivalent or lower level qualification to one they already had, flew in the face of any reasonable decision-making process, said UCU. The education system had not been consulted about the principle and the wholesale opposition to the measure was reflected in the select committee report.

The issue, said the union, was not whether money should be spent on increasing numbers of first-time students but about denying other students making absolutely rational choices about the courses they needed to reskill or improve their life chances and give them the opportunity to do so.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'The government has chosen not to listen to lecturers, universities or the IUSS committee. They were asked to defer implementation of this short-sighted decision. Their refusal is arrogant and the decision contradicts their own agenda.

'The cuts in funds are already hitting continuing education provision in universities.

'Not only will significant numbers of adults discontinue lifelong learning because they simply can't afford it but their withdrawal will make large tracts of university continuing education unviable.  We have already seen major cutbacks in big departments in universities such as Lancaster and Sussex. The irony is that this will reduce the opportunities for the very people that the policy is seeking to support (i.e. first time applicants).

'We need a more consultative, democratic and inclusive way of developing and enacting policy for all the public services. Above all government must consult the professionals and learners before it announces policies which will damage the objectives that we all share.'