Client: National Union of Students
PR Team: In-house
Campaign: Winning for Students
Timescale: July 2000 - ongoing
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
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