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UUK outlines election lobbying campaign

Universities UK is to call on all three main political parties to avoid a sudden overhaul of student funding after the next election.

In a blog outlining UUK's planned messaging for the forthcoming general election, Paul Clark, UUK director of policy, says that although the issue of tuition fees is now “highly political”, vice chancellors do not want to see the current system “uprooted in the short term and replaced with something new”.

He says UUK will be urging political parties to commit to “continued investment and a stable policy environment beyond May 2015”.

The comments suggest there is little appetite among vice-chancellors for Labour’s suggestion that the present system might be replaced with a graduate tax. However, Mr Clark went on to say that “carefully-planned and paced reform for the long term shouldn’t be ruled out”.

A UUK spokesman said that since 2003 onwards, the sector had faced large-scale changes every three or so years and that a period of stability was needed rather than “an explosion overnight” after the General Election.

In the blog, Mr Clark says of the current system: “Whatever one’s view, the reforms to the system have allowed for continued investment in higher education during a period of severe fiscal austerity. This is undeniably a good thing.”

He says UUK will also be calling for “a more favourable environment” for the recruitment of international students and the removal of students from the net migration statistics.

A third key message for politicians will be a call for increased public funding investment in research and innovation, which is seen as essential to maintain the UK’s position as a leading global knowledge economy.

“That is why we want to see the level of investment in research and innovation increase from its current level of 0.5% to 0.8% of GDP, to be in line with the UK’s global competitors,” Mr Clark says.

Last month, UUK set up a student funding panel to consider the design of the current student fees and loans system in England, and to make recommendations on its future development.