National Union of Students


Press Release   •   Oct 18, 2012 00:01 BST

The National Union of Students (NUS) today welcomed the publication of Alan Milburn’s report into social mobility and higher education, ‘ University Challenge: How Higher Education Can Advance Social Mobility’.

Mr Milburn, the government’s independent reviewer on social mobility and child poverty, criticises the government’s scrapping of the education maintenance allowance (EMA) and specifically argues that the funds from the government’s National Scholarship Programme (NSP) should not be spent on fee waivers.

Liam Burns, NUS President, said:

“It is welcome that the government’s own social mobility adviser has heavily criticised the scrapping of EMA, but the report’s suggestion that the successor scheme should move further from a national offer and towards a ‘golden ticket’ scheme offered by elite universities is also problematic.

 “EMA was good value for public money, and was about far more than access to university. Rather than a postcode lottery, this means the reintroduction of the national entitlement which should never have been scrapped in the first place.

 “Mr Milburn is absolutely right to say the government should immediately cease funding fictional, partial fee waivers, but the suggestion that upfront financial support should be reduced in favour of outreach spending is also questionable. Our own evidence suggests that those students from the poorest backgrounds are most likely to cite financial hardship as the biggest reason for dropping out, which shows the importance of continued funding for bursaries.”

 “This report’s more holistic approach to further and higher education which seeks to break down barriers between colleges and universities is also very welcome. We need a focus lifelong learning if we are to increase opportunity for all and to build the high skills economy and just society we need for the future. Mr Milburn is quite right that this requires commitment that GDP spend on higher education increases to at least the OECD average if we are not to fall behind.”

NUS (National Union of Students) is a voluntary membership organisation which makes a real difference to the lives of students and its member students' unions.

We are a confederation of 600 students' unions, amounting to more than 95 per cent of all higher and further education unions in the UK. Through our member students' unions, we represent the interests of more than seven million students.