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I was elected just over a year ago on the promise of implementing One Member, One Vote for Labour Students. It was decided by countless democratic events and Labour Clubs that was the right course of action, and I agree. My time in Labour Students has been characterised by the endless debate on this issue. Well enough is enough; tomorrow we can put an end to the indecision, the stalling, and the reviews. We need nothing less to stay relevant in a changing movement; we can’t retain the structures of the 1970s.
Tomorrow we have a historic opportunity one that marks a break with the past and a new beginning for Labour Students. We can build a movement not divided along factional lines on a conference floor, a movement we can be proud of. Tomorrow we can choose to implement OMOV, choose to move Labour Students forward; or we can choose to stay stuck in the past, where we’re left stuck with a movement and structures that are decaying and defunct. Left behind in the shadows of a Labour Party that’s moving on. I hope delegates embrace this chance to fundamentally shake-up our organisation and begin building the more democratic Labour Students we all know we need.
It’s unusual for a Chair to speak so bluntly about the organisation they lead, but I wasn’t elected on a promise to preserve and the debate has raged on long enough. I’ve visited Clubs who re-affiliated on the promise of Labour Students introducing OMOV. We have that opportunity in front of us know. Our movement is crying out for change and the opportunity to change is finally here. We must grasp it.
I’ve been open in the past about the challenges we face and this constitution doesn’t solve them all. This is a foundation, a foundation upon which successive national committees will build a stronger, more united, transparent, and democratic Labour Students. OMOV won’t solve all of our problems or fix all the faults within our movement, but it’s undeniable that democratising our organisation is the right thing to do and a massive step in the right direction.
The chance is too big to miss; the stakes are too high, and we cannot let this chance slip through our fingers. Fail to vote for a more democratic future tomorrow and we’re left behind yet again by a Labour party that’s changing for the better under Jeremy Corbyn. Not just as Chair, but as a member of this organisation for the past 5 years, I encourage you to vote for OMOV tomorrow, and take the first step of many toward building a more democratic, open and fairer Labour Students.
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The HE White Paper is the clearest sign yet that this government is failing students and young people. This Paper, at its heart, represents yet another attack on our education system from a right-wing government determined to unleash the full force of the market in Higher Education. As such, we have several key concerns:
Students’ Unions and Student Representation: Whilst the Government looks to have dropped its attack on Students’ Union “accountability and transparency”, the almost total absence of student voice from the White Paper’s proposals on quality or the TEF are a scandal. Students are framed as passive consumers (with none of the consumer rights that would apply in other settings) rather than active partners. We’ll be working with NUS and opposition MPs to address the student representation deficit in the Bill process.
Fees: To propose that fees should rise whilst simultaneously refusing to inflation uprate the loan repayment threshold is a scandal - it’s the poorest that will pay for that gap. We’ll be campaigning for the fee rise to be halted and for an across the board look at fees and costs to be developed, taking in accommodation costs, hidden course costs and loan repayment terms as a whole. Having already trebled tuition fees, the Tories wanting to saddle our members and students with even more debt is the clearest sign yet that they are failing young people.
New universities/ challenger institutions: The government’s new HE White Paper says it wants to give “students more choice over the type of education they receive”. But instead of funding investment in good Universities to achieve this, it want to do it by giving new “providers” degree awarding powers immediately. Students would be taking a gamble on probationary degrees from probationary providers. Who picks up the pieces if it all goes wrong? We’ll be calling for much better protection for students at these new institutions.
The teaching excellence framework: Labour Students have long argued for the teaching quality to be central to Higher Education and it was a Labour Government that last invested in real improvement in teaching quality through the establishment of the HE teaching academy. This Government’s solution is to measure teaching “quality” through proxy measures that aren’t really about teaching quality and to cut funding to Universities that need investment. We’ll be calling for a proper strategy to improve teaching, not a strange framework that ignores it.
Access and Equality: The Government has announced that Universities will be measured not just on equality of access but also on things like progression, achievement and graduate destinations. This is great news, but given the huge disparity within institutions between subjects we’ll be building on Social Mobility Tsar Alan Millburn’s recommendations and calling for access agreements at the subject and faculty level so that all the subjects and all the professions have proper strategies for equality of opportunity. Whilst the government talks a lot about ‘social mobility’ it is actions that count and scrapping maintenance grants show where their instincts really lie.
Raising tuition fees and saddling students with even more debt is a disgraceful decision – sign our petition against it here http://www.labour.org.uk/content/tuition-fees-petition #ToryPriceTag
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