With the suspension of the Union?s policy on Higher Education funding last term, the Council said they wanted to gauge student opinion on the matter. You might ask why the President wanted to conduct a survey instead of having a referendum. After having a look at a draft of the survey last term, I can guess at the reason why ? it asks vague questions about things such as who should be applying to university rather than asking definite questions on how university education should be funded, which should leave the few people pushing for new policy enough room to interpret the results however they wish. Throughout this whole process certain people on Council have stressed the importance of having a debate on this issue, while at the same time doing everything possible to inhibit the debate. At a meeting of the Representation and Welfare Board where the questions in the draft survey were supposed to be debated, the discussion was halted after several minutes and people were asked to voice their opinions by email rather than being able to discuss them with everyone else present. So what are the main points in this debate?
Firstly, our Union should fight for free education because any other policy would only weaken our position as a Student?s Union. If we fight for a cap on top up fees, how do we decide what ?cap? is suitable? In this situation, the Rector?s position in favour become harder to fight against. If we fought for the cap to remain at £3,000 thinking that it?s the best we?re going to get, then we are accepting that the free market should dictate Higher Education. Furthermore, if entrance to universities is dominated by the free market, then Universities will continually compete to increase fees, and it will become harder and harder for people to afford to go to University.
Secondly, the main duty of a Student?s Union is to take a principled stand on issues that affect students. Fighting for free education is not because people ?prefer something free over something you have to now pay for? as the President previously said; it is because people who can?t afford to pay the top up fees are being excluded from going to University out of fear of the resulting debt.
The previous Union policy stated that ?Top-up fees have created a market in Higher Education which hinders the involvement of those students who come from backgrounds with historically low participation rates.? They also said that the Union believed that ?any ?review? by the Government is likely to be a sham, designed to smooth the passage of unrestricted top-up fees.? As I have noted before, I believe that this comment should be applied to the review of this policy by the Council; it has been a sham, aimed at pushing through opinions which aren?t representative of the student population at Imperial. So I urge you to reflect the arguments made in this article in your responses to the Union?s survey.