at the union's annual conference earlier this year of the urgent need to make the organisation more "relevant and representative".
Streeting's election gave him the mandate to ring the changes, which he defiantly promised to do within the year. Already, he has "communicated with" students' unions and started a process of consultation to get the reform agenda back on track, with modified proposals to make the controversial issues - such as board structure and policy-making by delegates at an annual congress - more palatable.
…Streeting concedes that the debate on fees will be more to do with how, rather than whether, graduates make some contribution to their education. But he's not bowing out of a fight to get rid of tuition fees in their current guise.
"In an ideal world, of course, we would still be arguing for free education. If I was starting with a blank sheet of paper, I would have system that was funded by progressive taxation where graduates aren't making that contribution. But we don't live in an ideal world."
He openly backs Labour and is a member of the party, though he cannot be politically affiliated as president of the NUS. But he is no fan of the market approach to education. Opposition to that model ought to unite students and academics right the way to vice-chancellors, he says.
"Vice-chancellors need more money and aren't all too fussy about where they get it," he says. "But when you look at some of the initial impact of fees - the creeping student consumerism and the fact that some institutions have far more to gain from a market model than others - I think VCs need to look very carefully at the kind of system they've been arguing for."
The NUS will work with those vice-chancellors prepared to seek out an alternative model.
"But to those VCs that are determined to simply push for the lifting of the cap just to get increased fee income no matter what the cost, I'd advise them to be really careful what they wish for." Increasing student consumerism, which Streeting "hates", will be the inevitable result.
Streeting is keen to prompt a wider debate of how higher education is funded, not just a review of the first three years of tuition fees.
He wants ministers to lay out all the alternatives considered before the "deeply inequitable, unsustainable and socially regressive" model was introduced, to which the NUS will add its own options.…
Interview and photo courtesy of the Guardian.
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