New Universitites Minister: What does it mean for the Student Movement?

Student Protest

Shelley Asquith takes a closer look at the new Minister for Universities, Greg Clark and explains where his allegiances lie.

Unlike Willetts, Greg Clark has a working class background: educated in a comprehensive school and the son of a shop assistant. Don’t let that fool you though, the new Minister for Universities is just as much of an elitist Tory as his predecessor. Here’s where he stands on some of the key issues:

He voted for higher tuition fees, obviously. He voted to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance and is in favour of free schools and academies. So there’s nothing rebellious about him on the headline education reforms.

Tax the rich? When it comes to taxation, he’s in favour of raising VAT which hits ordinary people. Meanwhile he also doesn’t think contributions on earnings over £150,000 should be increased. Clark is against a mansion tax, against a bankers’ bonus tax and in favour of a lower rate of corporation tax.
He also voted to cut council tax benefit, which millions of students rely on.

If you find yourself in need of a safety net, Clark doesn’t think your welfare payments should rise with the cost of living - keeping the most vulnerable in poverty.

International students
Clark was in favour of curbing the rights of asylum seekers and supports the Government’s Immigration Bill which will charge international students for accessing the NHS.

New deal for work? No thanks - Clark has voted against proposals for Government to create jobs for young people who have been long-term unemployed.

Perhaps failing to recognise the urgency of the housing crisis, and the fact that fewer than half as many houses are being built than are in demand, Clark has been a firm defender of the Localism Bill, which scrapped regional home-building targets.
Clark is also a proponent of the social-cleansing bedroom tax, which penalises the poorest tenant’s with second bedrooms, despite whether a relative has passed away or left for study.

Clark favour’s the lobbying bill, which aims to restrict campaigning by charities during elections (that would include students’ unions lobbying over the NUS’s newly adopted free education policy). NUS Scotland seems to have a solution to that barrier though: just break the law.

To gage who Clark’s allies are in the sector, just look at who’s offered him a warm welcome this week: University Alliance and Higher Education Academy which supported the new fees system and has even argued for a removal of the £9k cap. Given the apparent support from these organisations which are effectively clubs of Vice Chancellors, it’s probably safe to say Clark’s in favour of overblown pay for senior managers.

The fight goes on.


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