Student leaders in Sheffield today reacted with concern at the Government's proposed 'radical shake-up' of Universities.
The Government's Higher Education White Paper, due to be released today, was originally promised last autumn as part of the Government's justification for tripling tuition fees to £9000 a year. It focuses on increasing the role of private companies inhigher education, to create 'greater competition' between Universities.
Sheffield Students' Union Education Officer Joe Oliver said:
'We were promised a White Paper that would drive up quality for students in return for increased fees and break down the social and economic barriers to entering university. Instead we've got proposals to privatise the sector and nothing new onwidening access.'
'We're concerned by proposals for more private providers offering degree courses, because it's not at all clear that this will do anything to either widen access to University or improve the quality of education on offer.'
'We're also concerned that any private company will naturally value profit over quality, and put interests of their shareholders above those of students.'
Students' Union President Josh Forstenzer said:
'Nick Clegg assured me last year that the White Paper would contain substantive proposals on widening access to University. This is how he justified his decision to break his pledge to vote against higher tuition fees. I thought it was unacceptable then,but now I feel even more cheated since it seems that the White Paper will contain hardly any new proposals. I think students and young people will once again be left feeling betrayed by this dithering and irresponsible Government.'
'I fear that this White Paper will betray the fact that this Government has no moral commitment to Widening Participation and no vision for Universities.'
'I think the proposal to increase the places for students getting AAB grades at A-level fails to widen access, since the overall cap on student numbers remains thesame. Over half the students currently getting AAB grades come from private schools and grammar schools, so this does nothing to meet the Government's stated aims ofincreasing social mobility.'
'The Higher Education sector has been waiting for this White Paper for over half a year and we were promised so much. However, it now appears that students are going to be paying triple the amount of fees with no clear corresponding increase inquality.'
'We will be seeking to meet with Nick Clegg as soon as possible to discuss this White Paper and try to salvage something from the train wreck the Government’s education policy has become.'
The NUS have produced a summary of information released on the White Paper so far which is available here: http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/news/article/nus/2305/