Ministers back down on campus reforms: Climbdown on funding follows opposition from Tory peers. Fran Abrams reports

MINISTERS have abandoned plans to reform student unions and to withdraw public funding from hundreds of campus societies, it was disclosed last night.

The climbdown over the Education Bill, details of which were leaked to the Independent last week, was made in the face of opposition from Conservatives in the House of Lords. However, the Government still faces defeat over separate plans to reform teacher training when the Bill reaches its Committee Stage next month.

The reforms would have starved the National Union of Students - which ministers described as the last closed shop in Britain - of cash, but would also have deprived student newspapers, entertainments and clubs of funds.

Under an amendment to the Bill, tabled last night, universities will now be responsible for ensuring that student unions operate in a fair and democratic manner. Individual students will have the right to opt out of union membership, but if they do so they will lose the right to vote in campus elections. They will still be able to use union bars and facilities, but will not be able to recover union fees, which are paid by the university in a block grant.

Unions will have to hold secret ballots in order to affiliate to outside bodies such as NUS, and decisions will have to be reviewed annually. However, with each union affiliating to about 70 sporting bodies, this is unlikely to be enforced.

Student unions will have to have a written constitution, approved by the university's governing body and reviewed every five years.

Announcing the retreat last night, Baroness Blatch, Minister of State for Education, said the Government had taken into account the issues raised during the Second Reading, before Christmas, when 31 peers spoke against it and only two for. 'The Government's intention is to secure democracy, accountability and choice in a way that does not inhibit the important extra-curricular activities of students,' she said.

Lorna Fitzsimons, president of NUS, said: 'We welcome this wave of common sense. Their revised legislation incorporates our own original ideas for clarifying the rights and responsibilities of student unions and NUS.'

However, there were warnings that proposals in the Bill to set up a teacher training agency to transfer more responsibility for training to schools, could prove equally controversial. Some Tory peers are now expected to join the Opposition to fight what remains of the Bill.

Blackpool and The Fylde College, which employs 330 full-time and 542 part-time lecturers, yesterday won a High Court injunction to prevent the lecturers' union calling a one-day strike. The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education plans a national action next Tuesday over the introduction of flexible contracts of employment. Mr Justice Morison held that the strike would be unlawful because the union had not 'described' the employees who were to be balloted on action or those who would be called out on strike so that the employer could readily ascertain who they were.

The union claimed it could not be required to name its members. It was granted a stay on the injunction until today - provided that it could begin an appeal by today.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before