The Association for Modern Universities has unveiled its six priorities for the upcoming general election.
The association – known as MillionPlus– represents 21 universities which were founded after 1992 and account for nearly half of students enrolled in UK universities.
MillionPlus is calling on politicians to support their six pledges, which include:
- Increase current levels of investment in line with inflation and guarantee sustainable resourcing for universities to provide world-leading education for students
- Restore maintenance grants for students from lower income backgrounds
- Reform the student visa system to attract global talent to study across the UK
- Invest 3% of GDP in research and innovation to boost our national productivity
- Improve student financial support so mature and part-time students can better access higher education
- Recognise modern universities as being at the heart of technical education and pivotal providers for a skilled public service workforce
Maintenance grants should be restored to ease the burden on those worse off students – Bill Rammell, MillionPlus
Bill Rammell, chair of MillionPlus and out-going vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, said: “Maintenance grants should be restored to ease the burden on those worse off students, so that no one is barred from university study because they are forced to choose keeping the lights on over their education.
Our institutions are key drivers of widening access to higher education – without improved maintenance support we risk losing ground in this effort.”
The group’s pledge to increase adult learning mirrors recent announcements made by the main political parties.
- Labour has announced six years of free training for adult learners to study up to undergraduate degree level.
- The Liberal Democrats’ “skills wallet” offers each adult a £10,000 training grant staggered over a 30-year period – but fell short of pledging maintenance support for adult learners.
- Earlier this year, the Conservatives announced a retraining scheme for adults without a degree and new T-level qualifications.
“As AI and automation begin to bite across the labour market, it will be more important than ever that people can re-skill and re-train at whatever stage of life they happen to be and whatever their other commitments. A system that does not work for these students is one that is simply not fit for purpose,” Mr Rammell said.
The government aims to see investment in research and innovation reach 2.4% of GDP by 2027 from 1.6% in 2016.
Listen now: Bill Rammell, vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire and former minister for higher education