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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007, 23:12 GMT 00:12 UK
Students to be given own minister
students chatting
Students are to have an independent forum to air their views
Students in England are to have their own government minister and a national forum to influence university policy.

Lord Triesman will be the first "minister for students" - with specific responsibility to speak up for higher education students.

There will also be an independent National Student Forum which will advise ministers on student issues.

"Student juries" will be convened in five locations before Christmas to inform its work.

There are 2.3 million students in the UK - and the latest figures from the university admissions service published this week showed a further rise in numbers entering higher education.

Consumer students

Lord Triesman, a former head of the AUT lecturers' union, will be responsible for establishing a dialogue with students about their experience of higher education.

The Universities Secretary, John Denham, says it would put "students' voices at the heart of government".

The newly-designated minister will also have to engage with students as consumers - with increasing pressure from fee-paying students to make sure that university courses are value for money.

Student welfare officers have reported a growing trend for students to see themselves as customers - threatening legal action if they feel that universities are failing to deliver adequate courses.

The announcements have been welcomed by the National Union of Students.

"For far too long students have been out in the cold when it comes to decisions about their futures," says union president, Gemma Tumelty.

"We're delighted that the government is willing to listen to the voice of the learner in its approach to education."

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