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UCU: ‘Scrap fees, TEF and REF and overhaul ineffective OfS’

Image: juanma hache, via Getty Images

Union publishes manifesto for UK general election, also calling for Teachers’ Pension Scheme pledge

The University and College Union has reiterated its call to abolish tuition fees, the Research Excellence Framework and the Teaching Excellence Framework.

In its 2024 general election manifesto, published on 11 June, the UCU says that fees are a “barrier to learning”, while the REF and the TEF should be abolished to pave the way for “new approaches to funding and regulation, including exploration of universal basic research funding for academics”.

It adds that the Office for Students, which regulates higher education in England, has proven “woefully ineffective” and that a priority for the new government must be to “overhaul the regulation arrangements for the sector in a way that truly centres the voices and interests of students and staff”.

The union, which has around 120,000 members, also used its manifesto to urge the next government to ensure “robust protections for academic freedom”, fully fund the increasing costs to universities of operating the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and move to a system of post-qualification admissions.

It also wants incoming ministers to ensure that postgraduate researchers are treated as members of staff. Currently, their employment terms—classing them as students—make them unable to access national government benefits such as free childcare.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “The general election offers the country a chance to radically reform education after the damage done to colleges and universities by more than a decade of real-terms cuts and free market fundamentalism.”

She said that the next government needs to show a “genuine commitment to securing the future of the post-16 education sector rather than simply tinkering around the edges”.