The National Union of Students (NUS) has called on university heads to give the windfall they will receive from the reduction in the top rate of tax next year to students.
At its National Conference in Sheffield this week, the NUS urged vice-chancellors and businesses to invest in its new programme for student-led outreach giving support for fair access to higher education.
Liam Burns, NUS President, argued that chancellors have no excuse not to contribute to this fund given the recent tax break they received in the budget. He argues they should donate all of the money they save from the cut in the 50p tax rate to the scheme.
This proposal follows on from piloted projects by the NUS where student unions organise outreach activity, but the new programme would be much more substantial than existing plans.
Burns put forward a strong case for the proposal arguing that while costs have gone up for students, university heads are earning substantially more money: “The government has increased fees and cut taxes, so that the average undergraduate will face thousands more every year in fees, while the average vice-chancellor will be paying £3000 less every year in tax.” He added: “Nobody can argue that we are all in it together, not when those are the rules of the game.”
However, support from vice-chancellors for this proposal has not been forthcoming. Brian Cantor, University of York Vice-Chancellor, who earned £258,473 last year including employers’ contributions to the USS pension scheme, has already ruled himself out of any contribution.
A spokesperson for the University said: “The Vice-Chancellor will be making, as usual, a substantial personal donation to the University of York during 2012-13, and therefore declines to support this cause, worthy as it is.” Burns added the new proposals could be funded if vice-chancellors chipped in a significant amount.
“To get more student involvement in the access effort, we want to create a new centre for student-led outreach – which we will fund by challenging every vice-chancellor to donate their tax savings from the cut in the 50p rate to make it happen, and get those donations matched by big business.” As a result of this, Burns said, close to a million pounds could be raised each year.