American poet, James Russell Lowell, once said that "wealth may be an excellent thing, for it means power, and it means leisure, it means liberty." Another thing that it means is a complex web of public funding; including taxation, university funding, tuition fees and student support. It's funny that money happens to mean these four things, as they're the four things that feature in today's Live! article - brought to you by the UK recession!
No U-Turn on Polytechnics (But Maybe on Research Funding)
My new favourite politician (for the simple reason that he acts as a Live! "article generator"), Universities and Skills Secretary John Denham, has denied rumours that he is planning on bringing back polytechnic universities in order to split academic and vocational courses. Mr Denham has instead suggested that some reviews in the vocational course sector are required - in particular, getting companies in relevant industries to get involved in the design of university courses. Another important issue, according to Mr Denham, is to ensure that those who have taken a vocational route after leaving school still have a chance to study at university, and are not limited by choices that they may have made in the past. NUS President, Wes Streeting, once again made his voice heard by saying that if the government want to make "radical" changes to higher education, then there needs to be a "radical overhaul of the way it is funded".
Meanwhile, Mr Denham also said that universities should retain the majority of research funding in the UK. He said that research would not be thinly spread, and instead would be kept within "small pockets of excellence" - almost the opposite of what was reported in a Live! article on the issue of university research funding last month. He went on to say that he hoped that "newer, less-established universities" (formerly known as "polytechnics" - until that was banned just a minute ago) would have the opportunity to specialise in different areas of funding instead of trying to compete with "established institutions".
Mr Denham also commented on postgraduate courses, suggesting that they should at least meet the value for money that students receive for undergraduate courses.
Tuition Fee Protest Today!
At 12 noon today, Student Unions will assemble outside The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) for a march past Universities UK. The Unions are protesting against a report by Sir John Chisholm, recommending a rise in University Tuition Fees. The protest is supported by The Campaign to Defeat Fees - a campaign supported by Socialist Labour MP, John McDonnell, and Socialist Scottish politician, Thomas Sheridan.
Bursaries Are a Waste of Time
The Head of The Office for Fair Access (Offa), Sir Martin Harris, has said that he believes that bursaries offered by Universities and the British Government do not affect a student's choice of university. Sir Harris says that the Government needs to work on helping these students continue study after leaving school, rather than focus on bringing those already studying into Higher Education. He continued by saying that "there is little evidence that any financial package at 18 makes any difference to whether a young person goes into Higher Education."
Conservative Higher Education Spokesman, David Willetts, says that the main barrier to top universities for many prospective students receiving grants is actually a lack of information about what courses are and aren't acceptable for university entry.
Union Supports Anti-Tax Campaign
And finally, taxation. The Union seems to be struggling to find a Welfare Campaign to run, after ICU Welfare Campaigns Officer, Tim Barrett, submitted a paper to Council suggesting that ICU supports the "Axe the Beer Tax" campaign. Supported by CAMRA and a number of MPs, the campaign wants to halt further increases in beer tax in order to "Save The Pub". It also aims to stop the promotion of cheaper alcohol at supermarkets. At the meeting on Monday 16th February, Mr Barrett indicated that the campaign would require a mininal amount of work, as the "Axe the Beer Tax" team would send promotional materials into college to raise awareness. The Union Council voted in favour of the paper in a simple majority vote.
I'd like to use the excuse that I was drunk, and therefore didn't get this last snippet up before felix did, but unfortunately this wasn't the case... mainly because I've decided to hold out for a price decrease before I next hit the bar.