Jeremy Corbyn has hit out at the state of higher education in England, saying the country should be “utterly ashamed” for having the highest level of tuition fees in the developed world in his first speech on education since being elected Labour leader.
Speaking at the University and College Union (UCU) conference, ‘Education: Cradle to Grave’, at the University of London on Friday, the politician also insisted how education “must be open to all, regardless of background or wealth” because it is of “such huge economic and social importance,” according to Times Higher Education (THE).
Mr Corbyn also expressed concern over the number of part-time students now turning their backs on higher education, and described how the number has fallen from 824,000 five years ago to 570,000 today.
He described these figures as “catastrophic” and said it was “a loss to the institutions... the education of the whole country,” reports THE.
With the news the Tories made a U-turn on a 2012 student loan promise - meaning students will now have to pay back more than the Government originally told them they had to - Mr Corbyn went on to say how these students were “being betrayed” by a government. He added: “How can any prospective student trust an education system which treats them like this?”
He did, however, praise Prime Minister David Cameron’s call on universities to take on more black and minority ethnic students: “We call on the Government to recognise, however, that these students are being put off disproportionately by the cuts to funding and abolition of maintenance grants.”
Sally Hunt, the UCU’s general secretary, also described how Conservatives are “poisoning the well for all” by driving up the cost of access to England’s universities - through higher fees and the axing of maintenance grants - while the governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland “may take a different view.”
She said: “The Government is intent, too, on recasting the relationship between teacher and taught in our universities - turning what was once a partnership in pursuit of knowledge into a mere transaction. For researchers, opportunities are narrowing and commercial and large scale corporate or government interests are coming to predominate.
“And so we ask: what is to be done in further education?”
Ms Hunt went on to highlight, what she believed to be, four fundamental areas which need to be looked at in order to make education accessible for all, including making reform of the admissions process a priority for UCU - if it is to “continue to argue for an alternative to the current policies.”
She also said job security for teachers - in order to enhance the student experience - was paramount, as is quality in public services which “comes at a price.”
She concluded: “My fourth point is: we need to stop waiting for someone else to save us. To build that progressive vision of education, to make the arguments for reform, and to fight for educators to be at the heart of policy are our jobs. We must work together.”Reuse content