UCU responds to government 2008-09 HE funding letter

UCU today said it agreed with government ambitions to increase the number of students in our universities and to widen participation from groups traditionally excluded. However, the union said government plans at the expense of funding for students wishing to return to university (ELQ students) were not acceptable.

Criticism of the government's plans to withdraw £100m of funding for students wishing to refresh their skills or retrain has been widespread with trade unions, universities, students, opposition parties and British industry all condemning the proposed alterations. Opponents say the plans contradict the government's own lifelong learning agenda and will hit universities doing the most to widen participation the hardest.

Speaking after John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, sent his annual grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'We welcome the government's warm words on widening participation in our universities and the additional funding for 60,000 extra students. However, the funding for a third of these is from monies being taken away from ELQ students and we do not believe that slamming the door on thousands of people who want to retrain or refresh their skills is the best approach.

'Our major concern is the stated aim of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) to make "efficiency savings" rising to £1.5bn a year by 2010-11. We want the department to fully consult with the higher education sector before any cuts in funding are announced.'