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Take a step back from it all

Jan 25 2008 11:39
Stephen Brown
ICU President Stephen Brown talks about why the funding debate is needed, and why you should take the survey, particularly if you think his views are 'awful'.
Stephen Brown

At times it can be difficult to engage one of the least politicised student bodies in the country but it is all part and parcel of Students? Union Presidency. Whilst the majority of Union activity centres around clubs and society activity and social events, the real reason the Union was established way back when was to provide a representative voice for the students of Imperial College.

In the future the Union is looking to make greater use of electronic means of gathering student opinion which is why we are giving this electronic survey on the topic of how our Universities should be funded a go. The student body of Imperial has the power to mandate elected officers like myself to take a certain position on issues such as this so in order to help this process along I urge you to take the few minutes it will take to complete our short survey. Whilst I am happy to share my opinion at the end of the day it doesn?t really matter what I think ? the view that matters is the one taken by the largest number of students.

My successor (who you are about to elect) will also be looking to collate and voice your views in the run up to the government?s Higher Education funding review which is currently scheduled for 2009. In respect of the current £3000 cap on the contribution made by UK and EU students you will hear a variety of calls from student leaders, University Vice-Chancellors (most places don't have a Rector) and politicians to keep it, raise it or perhaps even remove it altogether. I will use the rest of this article to pose some questions to you First of all, what are your opinions of the current system? I have made my own views clear on this matter in previous issues of Felix, but do you think that the introduction of top up fees has changed our universities for the better or for the worse? Are the enhanced bursary packages students in financial need now have access to whilst at university worth the debt? Getting in to debt on a buy now, pay later basis can be quite daunting but it can be considered to be quite attractive to the alternative of increasing the rate of income tax. One day we all will pay off our student debts whilst any additional tax burden on graduates could make our education even more costly than it currently is.

One of the benefits of the current system is that what you pay back every month is determined by how much you earn and if your earnings never increase pass a certain level then you don't have to pay back a penny. Could it be that the endless scaremongering that has emanated from Students' Unions on the issue of student debt put some people off applying to university?

Secondly, looking to the future you might want to consider what mechanisms should be in place to direct funding? With finite resources available how should they be distributed and what criteria should be taken in to account? We are constantly hearing about shortages of suitably qualified and willing students wanting to study science and some have argued that resources in this area should be increased. With regards to the more popular subjects where there is already a glut of graduates to what extent should learning for learning?s sake be funded?

These are some pertinent and controversial questions that we would like your views on. If you think my opinions are awful then our survey is a quick and easy opportunity to steer me back on to the right path and to better inform the Union's policy making process. Visit [www.imperialcollegeunion.org/hesurvey|www.imperialcollegeunion.org/hesurvey] to take the survey.

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