Policy passed at National Conference 2020
Our tertiary education system has become increasingly marketized, with financial burdens being shifted away from the public and on to the individual. This has meant our Universities have begun to exist for profit, which has led to course closures, unmanageable workloads and casual contracts for staff, hidden course costs, rising accommodation costs and potential fee increases for students. It has also led to the outsourcing of services, including counselling provision.
Student’s already struggle to make ends meet, with 78% of students struggling with mental health in their time at University, in large part due to financial pressures. It has also led to Higher Education staff striking on 3 occasions since 2018. Tertiary education in N.I. is broken, and both staff and students are at the cold face.
It is our strongly held belief that tuition fees must be abolished as they act as a barrier to access, particularly for students from lowest income backgrounds. We believe that maintenance grants should be restored and that accommodation is made affordable. We also believe that EMA must be continued to ensure FE students are able to study without financial pressures and that FE student unions are given proper protection in their institutions. We also believe it is vital to stand with our staff in their disputes because when staff feel they’re being underpaid, overworked and under-valued, it affects students. We must decolonize our institutions, which means to democratize decision making giving students and staff a voice and ensure our institutions divest from fossil fuels and the arms trade.
Our relationship with UCU is one that should be nurtured and cherished in recognition of our common opposition to the marketization of education and our united goal for a national education service that is properly funded, accessible and lifelong that has students, workers and social justice at its’ core.