Government must scrap degree funding changes following parliamentary report, says UCU

UCU said today that controversial government plans to axe degree funding for a huge swathe of higher education students must now be scrapped.

The call comes after an influential parliamentary committee concluded that 'the decision to cut funding was insufficiently justified either by persuasive analysis of its likely effectiveness in achieving the desired goals or evidence of the likely wider impact of the policy.'

UCU gave evidence detailing the impact the cuts would have throughout the country to the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills select committee in January after the committee launched an inquiry into the government's plans. The union said its belief that this was the government's least-supported policy had been vindicated today as the committee's report revealed that 'nearly all the submissions we received were hostile to the changes.' It also agreed with UCU's view that any changes should be referred to the 2009 fees review.

In September the government announced that £100m of funding for students wishing to study for a higher education qualification equivalent to, or lower than, one that they already had (a so-called ELQ) would be withdrawn.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'We welcome the select committee's heavy criticism of the process surrounding the original decision and its call for a referral to the 2009 fees review. We said the proposed changes represented the least-supported education policy in this government's history and believe today's welcome report vindicates our position.

'In the light of this report, persisting with the policy would be a travesty given the potential damage to lifelong learning and universities; in particular those offering courses to adults and part-time students. The government claims to be keen on evidence-based decisions but, according to the committee, this policy was not justified even in terms of achieving its stated aim.

'The proposed funding changes directly contradict the Leitch agenda and the government should now turn its energies to developing a comprehensive strategy for strengthening part-time higher education opportunities that is so central to widening participation for both first-time and returning students.'

Analysis by UCU of the data on the potential financial implications for universities and colleges has revealed that post-92 universities and institutions specialising in offering degrees to workers wishing to retrain would be amongst the biggest losers under the new regime. The full analysis, detailing which institutions would be hardest hit can be found below.