CAMPAIGNS: Unions - NUS lobbying achieves the grant review

Client: National Union of Students

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: Winning for Students

Timescale: July 2000 - ongoing

Budget: Unavailable

Student finance has been a big issue since 1997, when the new Labour

government replaced student grants with a loan scheme and announced

plans to charge tuition fees from the autumn of 1998.

Tales of students amassing huge debts have remained a constant on the

media agenda and the Government has been the focus of much angry


In the belief that existing funding measures were unfair to its members

and penalised those from poorer backgrounds, the National Union of

Students (NUS) has been vociferous in demanding student finance



To persuade the Government to introduce maintenance grants for students

from low-income families; to bring an end to tuition fees, which are

£1,075 per year.

Strategy and Plan

The NUS worked on many fronts, lobbying Parliament to create a culture

of change, working with the media and galvanising support from parents

and teaching unions.

On the 15 November last year, 15,000 students marched through London on

a national 'Grants Not Fees' demonstration that culminated in a rally in

Kennington Park. This was backed by the National Association of Teachers

in Further and Higher Education, Unison, and the Association of

University Teachers.

At a national level, the NUS public affairs team lobbied MPs, submitted

research to Select Committee hearings and held lobby days, most notably

on Budget Day (7 March) when students gathered outside the Houses of

Parliament, proclaiming: 'Every Day is Budget Day for Students.'

Local student union branches also conducted letter writing campaigns to

MPs and lobbied parliamentary candidates in the run-up to the General

Election on 7 June.

To help explain the complex funding issues to the media, the NUS

produced a Student Finance press pack for journalists and took both a

proactive and reactive stance in providing relevant information and case


The PR team also worked with schools to provide leavers with university

funding information and last January, it launched a Parent Power

Campaign, providing a voice for students' families.

Measurement and Evaluation

Informally, the NUS measured its success by levels of response and

support from MPs, civil servants and the media. But the organisation

also plotted its progress against set benchmarks.

For example, in February 2001, the NUS achieved a major milestone, when

the then education secretary, David Blunkett, announced government

legislation preventing universities from setting their own tuition



Success came on 3 October, when education secretary Estelle Morris

announced a review of student funding, offering two possible models.

One option involved restoring grants for all students regardless of

their family income, the other, the introduction of a graduate tax


In a further development, some ministers have voiced their support for

scrapping student tuition fees.

Despite NUS president Owain James hailing the Government decision as 'a

real victory' for students, eight regional demonstrations are planned

for this autumn, followed by a national lobbying of Parliament in


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