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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 21:18 GMT 22:18 UK
Brown fails to impress students
Students
The NUS is demanding the return of student grants
The chancellor Gordon Brown had little to say about education in his Budget speech.

He did promise a "significant" increase in future funding - but the lack of any detail generated a "heard it all before" response from delegates at the National Union of Students annual conference in Blackpool.


On the face of it, Mr Brown might have been aiming his promises of billions for the health service and help for people with children at Clare Sturman.

The 24-year-old is a nursing student and a single mother with a daughter who has just started school.

We marched 10,000 students past Tony Blair's front door earlier this year but the protests seem to be falling on deaf ears

Matt Toffrey,
Student union head
Her training involves shift work, with its associated childcare costs.

So was she pleased by what he had to say?

"It's appalling," she said.

"He is pumping all this cash into the health service, which is fantastic - but he still refuses to put money into nursing education."

Worse off

Clare estimates she was 15 a week worse off, moving from income support into training.

Clare Sturman
Clare Sturman: Nurses' education needs more cash
Because her course at the University of the West of England in Bristol is for a diploma, not a degree, she gets only the training bursary, worth about 350 a month.

She does not get the help with fees and loans that degree students get.

So the bursary and her child benefit have to pay for everything.

After two and a half years she has an overdraft of about 8,000, she says, "and no hope of paying it off".

"It's all well and good putting cash into retaining nurses but he should be training them first," she said.

"Because unless he trains them he is not going to have them."

Vocational training

Warren Nettleford, 19, a history and politics student at Lancaster University, had expected Mr Brown to have something to say about vocational studies, especially nursing and teaching.

Warren Nettleford
Warren Nettleford says Labour pledges have not resulted in action
He is "disappointed" that the many pledges made about education since Labour came to power in 1997 have not been translated into action.

"The general level of funding hasn't been as high as it could be," he said.

A Leeds University graduate, 22-year-old Kathryn Edwards, is hoping for a media career.

She stresses the importance of university activities outside of studying - student journalism, in her case.

Students who had to work while studying, to make ends meet, did not have time to join societies or do voluntary work relevant to their studies, she said.

As a result, their CV would be less impressive than that of someone who had not had to work.

Matt Toffrey, 22-year-old head of the student union at the University of Central England, has managed to turn his vocational degree in television technology into a career - he starts a job with the BBC in September.

Student debt

But he will be taking with him a debt of more than 15,000, he says.

That is in spite of having done two part-time jobs during his first two years' study - weekends and two nights a week with Marks and Spencer and weekend evenings doing bar work.

He says he found it a strain doing that and keeping up with his studies - but less stressful than when he had no work and was not sure "where the next rent cheque was coming from".

Graduate tax

The NUS conference voted this week to renew its opposition to tuition fees and its demand for the return of grants - adding a rejection of a so-called graduate tax.

Matt Toffrey
Matt Toffrey will start work with a 15,000 debt
That "pay later" idea is said to be one of the options considered by ministers in the review of student funding ordered by the prime minister, after his mauling on the issue during the general election campaign last year.

The Higher Education Minister, Margaret Hodge, made it clear in a speech last week that the long-awaited outcome of the review would not be revealed until after the government's comprehensive spending round this summer.

Matt Toffrey thinks it better that graduates should pay back the investment in their education when they are earning enough to afford it.

Better, that is, than the situation many students find themselves in - as hundreds did at his university last year - being kicked off their courses because they cannot pay their bills.

"We marched 10,000 students past Tony Blair's front door earlier this year but the protests seem to be falling on deaf ears."

Means testing

Louise McMillan, 20, from Northern Ireland, is studying philosophy and politics at Wadham College, Oxford - where she pays 260 a month for shared accommodation.

She says the relatively high cost of living there points up the "stupidity" of a system of means-tested student loans which pay no regard to where people are studying.

Louise, who hopes to work in education, wants to see that issue addressed in the review.

"A graduate tax? How is that going to help people going into nursing or teaching?, " she asked.

Gordon Brown had made much in his speech of wanting to encourage an enterprise culture, Matt Toffrey said.

"Well students are the future - the people who will be supplying the new ideas - and they are stifling that."

 VOTE RESULTS
The Budget: Has the chancellor got it right?

Yes
 43.20% 

No
 56.80% 

25637 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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See also:

16 Apr 02 | Politics
14 Apr 02 | Politics
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