Monday, January 14, 2008

Derek Wyatt accused of betraying adult learners

Derek Wyatt MP, has been accused of betraying adult learners in Sittingbourne & Sheppey by supporting cuts to university funding.

The accusation was made by his local Tory rival, Gordon Henderson, following a debate last week in the House of Commons.

Mr Wyatt voted against a Conservative motion on second chance education, which criticised the Government’s policy on the issue.

211 MPs, including 86 Labour MPs, had previously signed a cross party early day motion (EDM) expressing concern about the Government’s £100m cuts to second chance education.

These cuts will particularly affect part-time students and mothers returning to work. Despite this, Mr Wyatt joined other Labour MPs (including 63 who had signed the original EDM) in voting against it when it was put to the vote on Tuesday night.

Mr Henderson said:

‘Mr Wyatt has now failed twice to register concern at the £100m cuts in second chance education, which particularly affect part-time students and mothers returning to work.

‘In order to save the Government embarrassment he chose to vote against the interests of people in Sittingbourne & Sheppey who may now find their chance of taking a second university course to improve their prospects has been taken away.’

Notes to Editors

John Denham announced in September 2007 that he was ‘asking the Funding Council to phase out the support it gives to institutions for equivalent or lower qualification (ELQ) students, starting from academic year 2008/09. I would like to see the support reduced by around £100 million a year by 2010/11.’ This came out of the blue – there was no prior consultation with the higher education sector.

During a consultation by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce), it became clear that the higher education sector as a whole was strongly opposed to the change. In particular, it was feared that part-time students, lifelong learners and women returning to the labour market would suffer. There is also likely to be a knock-on effect for full-time students, as some courses will cease to be viable. Some key criticisms from the sector are:

Universities UK: ‘we are concerned by the unintended consequences for institutions, for individual students and for certain economically strategic areas. It may damage the Government’s efforts to promote lifelong learning.’ (Parliamentary Brief, 11 December 2007)

University and College Union: ‘The government alleges that these cuts are being made in the cause of ‘fairness’. In reality, they are extremely unfair, not just to students with existing qualifications, but to those first time learners the government claims to be helping.’ (Brief 2, November 2007)

‘Million +’: ‘The decision appears to run counter to the lifelong learning and skills agenda which the Government is seeking to promote, deregulates tuition fees for some higher education students without any advance scrutiny of its likely consequences and has not been the subject of public consultation.’ (Briefing Paper)
Key facts
In 2005/06, 8 per cent of Hefce-funded full-time equivalent student numbers were aiming for an ELQ (Hefce)

20 per cent of part-time students in England will become unfunded from 2008/09 (and 2% of full-time) (Hefce)

25 per cent of the Open University’s students in England and NI will become unfunded and £31.6m or 19 per cent of OU teaching funding will be phased out

One-third of Birkbeck students are ELQ students and the college stands to lose £7.9m

The School of Pharmacy, University of London, could lose 15 per cent of its teaching income (Council of University Heads of Pharmacy)

Ranked by size of the financial loss, 8 of the top 10 institutions are in London (London Higher).

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