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Posts Tagged ‘David Lammy’

Come Clean on Fees – November 11th 2009

Posted by Tobin Webb on February 1, 2010

The fees review panel and process finally announced and low & behold, NUS is not on it. To many the panel looks like a bit of a stitch-up and, of course, it won’t report back until after the general election. So, feeling very despondent about all this a few of us sat around a table decided we needed some snap action on this – a show of strength if you like – alert the media, the public and the politicians that we won’t take this lying down. And so “Come Clean on Fees” was dreamt up, and three days later it happened.

"oooh, oooh Mandy, we want to know-oh-oh-oh if you'll pay our fees!"

I was really overwhelmed with the strength of support from students’ unions up and down the land who just dropped everything and came to London. Students in their hundreds descended on Parliament spending the morning distributing literature to the public, followed by a stunt on Parliament Square that was very well attended by media, and the feeling amongst us all was strong – the message was getting across.

Next, we were piling into a Parliamentary committee room where, really, we had no idea what might happen. Over the previous three days we had been asking students to e-mail their MPs to tell them that we will be there and that if they valued the student vote and had something to say about fees – they better turn up. Over the course of the afternoon, over 60 MPs shuffled in and out of the room and corridor taking their turn on the “open mic” to give us their views on HE – yes even David Lammy turned up and gave a (surprisingly) impressive speech highlighting his commitment to widening access and genuinely welcoming the NUS’ work and the lobby that day.. But it was astonishing, MP after MP just kept turning up and agreeing to sign our pledge. For a full article and set of photos see here.

So the campaign well and truly has momentum, the public are on our side with a YouGov poll commissioned by pressure group Compass revealing that only 12% of the public think the review should even consider increasing fees, while a majority believes that it should look at alternatives to fees. We have MPs’ and PPCs’ attention and now we have a pledge to roll out across the country. Next stop – general election – we need to prove that the student vote is strong and the student vote matters. MPs and PPCs that don’t sign up to the pledge will be named and shamed and if they don’t come clean on their position on fees before we are asked to vote for them, may they see the error of their ways at the ballot box.

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Labour Party Conference, Brighton 09

Posted by Tobin Webb on October 12, 2009

Well the Sun really did shine on the conference this year (the one in the sky I mean) as I spent a beautiful week in Brighton working with NUS and Labour Students.

100_1368NUS Funding our Future Fringe

As part of the party conference programme NUS hosted a fringe with Million+ at the Labour Party Conference that I attended where Wes our National President challenged David Lammy Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property to define what the Labour Party’s position is on higher education funding.

Wes warned the party not to hide behind the review stating: “It’s shameful that the government will not discuss higher education funding. Labour should set out its position on higher education and recognise that it is not in the interests of opportunity, access or mobility for fees to continue.”

I have to say, the atmosphere was electric – David Lammy was really on the spot and retorted with a list of Labour’s achievements on Higher Education in the last twelve years – all true, all laudable, and not to be forgotten, but it has to be said, Wes definitely commanded the room’s opinion on demanding that Labour put forward an HE funding policy ahead of the next general election and their was a real buzz of talk after the fringe and beyond about Wes and Lammy’s exchange. I talked a great deal about it with people I bumped into later into that week, especially whilst attending a regional reception where I talked with both sitting MPs and candidates for Bristol and the South West many of whom are keen to get involved with our town takeover campaign. I get the sense that there is a real appetite amongst a good deal of candidates especially in cities with Universities to be able to come out publicly and say something to students and their families about the future funding arrangements. With Labour and the Tories saying little and the LibDems grabbing headlines with their leadership disagreeing with party policy on free education – it’s really open season for one of the big three to seize the opportunity and run with this towards the election. I personally hope it’s Labour and I am certainly reassured after attending conference that the Labour membership base and a good deal of its elected officials out there are also hungry to see a progressive and positive policy on HE from Labour in the near future. Come on David – deliver the goods!

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Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) Annual Conference

Posted by Tobin Webb on September 23, 2009

With thanks to Katie Dalton, President of NUS Wales – I was invited to do a little NUS Wales work in attending this event in just over the Severn bridge from me in Newport, which turned out to be much more of a thought-provoking event than I expected.

I was invited to address the conference as part of a panel talking about the student experience and recruitment methods of AGR members. What emerged was a heated debate about fair access to professions and an ‘outing’ of dodgy recruitment methods. We’ve all heard the debate for many years now about fair access to HE, but it amazes me that the same kind of public pressure isn’t being mounted on graduate recruiters.

Alan Milburn MP’s very welcome report “Unleashing Aspiration” which you can (and should) read, starts to address these issues, but opening the doors to more apprentices is like trying to wallpaper over the cracks of this deeply ingrained issue. Graduate recruiters need to be exposed for what they are up to – many in the room were quite open and unapologetic about their methods which play right into the old elitist vision of HE – “we don’t even bother looking at applicants from universities we don’t recognise the name of” said one young recruitment manager “we simply don’t have the time.” One recruiter – from a firm I wish I could remember the name of – was passionately arguing in favour of breaking down these barriers and she went further to say that she had switched to system where she was seeking “potential” as well as “attainment”, encouraging recruiters to drop their old fashioned approaches of seeking out Russell/94 Group grads with a 2:1 that can pass a maths test and said she had started looking at contextual data and taking a wholistic approach to her assessment of applicants to great success, which her recruits going on to thrive and succeed.

I couldn’t help but think that this argument was strikingly similar to the ones around progressive access agreements to Universities, where contextual data is taken into account and lower grade offers given and recent published studies show that these students almost always go on to not only thrive in their HE institution, but often outshine those students from more traditional backgrounds and schools. It seems to me that the graduate recruiters are just the next barrier to social mobility and inclusion that starts with what postcode you’re born in, what school you go to and what university you may end up at – but it seems the kinds of attitudes they represent are even more out-of-date than the worst offending HE institutions.

It’s time to ramp up the pressure on these people – with youth and graduate unemployment so disturbingly high, David Lammy coming on the radio as he did this month and telling us “not to worry, I’ve been on the phone to PwC and they still have vacancies” just doesn’t fill me full of hope I’m afraid…

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