NUS have voted through a new funding motion which contradicts ICU's own extensive policy. The new policy will provide direction for the campaigns and demands of the National Union ahead of the 2009 Review into Top Up Fees.
With eleven amendments in total this was a lengthy debate and one which saw the strongest mandate on Imperial Delegates following the recent Higher Education Funding Survey. Only four of these amendments fell in ICUs favour with support for additional course costs such as fieldtrips to be regulated; cuts to Physics courses condemned and national demonstrations demanding free education avoided.
However, the other motions which were passed failed to take into account the diverse nature of students in Higher Education. The final motion opposes our own policy by supporting National Bursary Schemes, Progressive Taxation and preventing research intensive universities from delivering on their widening participation agenda.
Under the current tuition fees arrangements, individual institutions are responsible for allocating a proportion of their tuition fee income towards bursary schemes, regulated by targets set by the Office for Fair Access (Offa). This local bursary allocation allows Higher Education institutions to target bursaries at their students according to the requirements of their courses.
Both ICU and UCLU opposed plans for a national bursary scheme, where money would be returned to Government to allow it to distribute bursaries, as their respective institutions met or exceeded their Offa targets for allocating bursaries, along with others such as the University of East London and Anglia Ruskin University. A large majority of other universities in the country have failed to fully allocate their bursary funds, leading to nearly £20m not being returned to students.
Next year Imperial is to allocate almost double the amount it gives out in bursaries, far exceeding the target set by Offa. Under a national bursary scheme that money is likely to disappear, to avoid it being distributed to students at other institutions.
With so many amendments in contradiction to our own mandate, ICU chose to oppose the final motion in full with a UCL Delegate speaking out in much the same way. In the closing speeches in the Education Zone he accused the debate of being a discussion between the left and the far left rather than practical or balanced discussion on the future of HE Funding.
The Yes to NUS Supporters campaigned to join the NUS to gain a national voice on education and to affect the agenda for reform. Conference so far has failed to deliver for Imperial students on both of these issues.