NUS and NSoA respond to Liberal Democrats’ manifesto

Today the Liberal Democrats launched their manifesto, Claire Sosienski Smith, NUS Vice President (Higher Education) said:

‘There is much we welcome in the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto, but also many areas we think need further attention. It is promising that they have recognised the value of retraining through their proposed “skills wallet” and greater funding for further education that would go someway towards increasing lifelong education in the post-16 system.

‘However we do not need another review into higher education finance to tell us that the system must be reformed. The Liberal Democrats need to address the mistakes that they made during the coalition years that have left students straddled with enormous debts. We need a new education system that is truly lifelong, accessible and funded.

‘It is promising to see that they have listened to our calls to reintroduce maintenance grants in higher education but it is disappointing that they have not committed to providing specific proposals to address the crisis in recruitment to nursing and healthcare courses. It is also of significant concern that they have ignored the problem of spiralling accommodation costs.

‘The proposed Young People’s premium is an interesting mechanism to increase accessibility to further education and paying some of this direct to students would be positive – but it will need to be enough to meet learners’ essential costs.

‘We agree with their analysis of the dangers that Brexit poses to students and we welcome their commitment to hold a People’s Vote. We would also celebrate an end to the “hostile environment” and the restoration of two-year post-study work visas. However, more needs to be done to truly put a stop to the “hostile environment”, including abolishing the Prevent Duty.

‘With this manifesto the Liberal Democrats have demonstrated a real commitment to tackle the mental health crisis. Plans to introduce a Student Mental Health Charter through legislation and ring-fencing additional investment for NHS services are very positive steps.

‘Votes for 16-year-olds is something that NUS has long called for and it will be crucial for the next government to introduce this, as well as scrap proposals for voter ID, in order to improve the legitimacy of our democracy.

‘While the Liberal Democrats have observed some of the issues that the climate crisis presents to all of us it is very disappointing that they have not committed to taking urgent action. For the UK to be carbon-neutral by 2045 is far too late and will result in incredibly damaging effects to our planet.’

Raisa Matadar and Simon Hawthorn, on behalf of the National Society of Apprentices, said: ‘The Liberal Democrats manifesto has ignored many of the major concerns of apprentices. NSoA have asked for accessible inclusive Sex and Relationships Education, something which appears to be on offer to School and College students but not apprentices. Similarly, college and university students are promised high quality mental health support services which have not been extended to apprentices.

‘It is also very disappointing that the Liberal Democrats have placed apprentice policy within the economy section of this manifesto rather than the education section when in reality the experience of apprentices straddles both. It’s time apprentices got the best of both worlds.

The expansion of high-quality apprenticeships and a focus on Level 3 and 4 are to be welcomed but NSoA await more detail on how the Liberal Democrats define a high quality apprenticeship and how they intend to guarantee all apprenticeships meet that standard.

‘We welcome a commitment to a real living wage and would ask whether apprentices are also entitled to earn enough to live on?’