6 September 2016

MP proposes ‘Bill of Rights’ to give students a fairer deal

Ex-NUS President and Labour MP, Wes Streeting, proposes changes to the Higher Education Bill that would include a students’ Bill of Rights
student_protests2Wes Streeting, who was also once President of the National Union of Students, was the first and only MP to officially put forward suggested amendments to the Higher Education Bill before it was to be discussed in parliament today.

A committee of MPs and representatives from Universities across the UK have gathered today to debate the proposed Higher Education Bill – a document created by Universities Minister Jo Johnson that proposes changes to how Higher Education is funded in the UK.

Streeting has put forward a total of 30 changes he believes should be made to the bill, all of which are in support of offering students a better deal at university, as he claims students deserve to have “a clear understanding of what they can expect for their investment.” He said:

Under the Tories, tuition fees have rocketed, with students shouldering the burden of paying for their education with insufficient rights and protections in return.

Students have not only had to cope with the rising tuition fees again this year, but the government also recently made retrospective changes to student loan repayment terms – a move that would’ve been considered illegal if a bank tried to do it.

Universities have now been given the go ahead to charge above the £9,000 per year cap from 2017, and that includes current students – read more here.

What Streeting is proposing

wes streetingCredit: NUS
Streeting proposes in his list of amendments that Universities should be required to do the following:

  • Provide information to prospective students about the number of contact hours they can expect on a course, as well as details on how assessments and marking is carried out
  • Outline in prospectuses what the university policy is regarding fair access for students from different socioeconomic backgrounds
  • Release data each year regarding drop-out rates, final grades achieved by graduates and where graduates gain employment afterwards – broken down by department
  • Publish information regarding the highest paid university employee to the average and lowest paid employee
  • Reserve places on remuneration committees for staff and student representatives
  • Consult with students, staff and applicants on changes that affect them.

An Office for Students… without any students

office of studentsCredit: NUS – TwitterOne question that seemed to be on everyone’s lips who was present at parliament today was – where are all the students?

Shockingly, there were no student representatives invited to give their two cents on a Bill that solely concerns them.

This is perhaps unsurprising when you consider the HE Bill itself, which Streeting suggests is contradictory to the core:

The great irony of the government’s higher education bill is that it’s got an Office for Students at the centre of the bill, but absolutely nothing for students in it.

Not even the NUS received an invite to today’s debate, so they set up their own Office for Students outside parliament in response!

The HE Bill will be debated until Thursday. Full summary to follow!

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