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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 01:45 GMT
Tories protest at student funding
University lecture
The 100m is to be diverted to students taking their first degrees
The Conservatives are adding to protests against government plans to cut funding from students taking a second undergraduate degree.

The Tories will put a motion opposing the withdrawal of funding for "equivalent or lower qualification students" to the House of Commons.

It will use the wording of an early day motion already signed by 86 Labour MPs.

The government says that 100m funding will be better spent on students who are taking their first degrees.

Career change

The Open University has also added its voice to the campaign, calling on the government to suspend the funding change.

The change in funding would not affect students moving from an undergraduate to a postgraduate degree - but would affect those who wanted to return to university to take another degree at the same level or lower.

The Conservatives' university spokesman, David Willetts, says this would block the chances of people wanting to re-train and who need a degree as part of a career change.

He also says it will be a "heavy blow" to mothers wanting to acquire new qualifications to help them return to work.

And he says the funding losses will disproportionately hurt the Open University and Birkbeck College, London.

Mr Willetts says that there should be support for such institutions that "give people a second chance. It's bizarre that the government wants to take 100m from them without consulting anybody beforehand".

By adopting the same language as an early day motion that received support from dozens of Labour MPs, the Conservatives will seek to create cross-party support for a bid to overturn the government's funding changes.

'Priority'

The motion warns that the "decision to withdraw funding from institutions for equivalent or lower qualification students will have a disproportionate impact on the part-time sector in general and on specific institutions such as Birkbeck and the Open University".

It says that efforts for lifelong learning and improving workplace skills will be damaged.

The Open University's vice-chancellor, Professor Brenda Gourley, said the breadth of opposition to the "funding changes shows how widespread is the belief that they should not go ahead".

"At the very least, we are calling for the decision to be suspended, pending the planned review of fees and funding in 2009."

The funding changes, to be introduced in 2008-2009, will affect 25% of its students in England and Northern Ireland, says the Open University - with the phasing-out of 32m in teaching funding.

The Open University has been campaigning against the funding cuts, saying it will leave 29,000 of its students without funding.

There have been warnings from universities that fees for such students will be forced up above 7,000 per year.

John Denham, the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, wrote to the Higher Education Funding Council for England in September, explaining the changes.

"While there may be much benefit to an individual, or their employer, in them retraining for a second qualification at the same level, this is not, in my view, usually as high a priority for public funding as support for students who are either entering higher education for the first time, or progressing to higher qualifications.

"In many cases, it may be appropriate for the employer to pay at least a proportion of the costs of such re-training."

There will be exceptions to the funding withdrawal, including foundation degree courses.

SEE ALSO
Universities warn of higher fees
30 Dec 07 |  Education
Funding for second degrees is cut
07 Sep 07 |  Education
More students to receive grants
05 Jul 07 |  Education

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