TUC leader fears for students

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Barber during his speech © Trinity Mirror

TUC leader Brendan Barber has said it would be a “disaster for the country” if students are priced out of university by high tuition fees.

Speaking exclusively to JMU Journalism, he warned the recent drop in applications was a serious cause for concern, with potential long-term implications.

He said: “I do worry about that very much and the most recent figures now seem to be showing a real drop in the number of applicants, potentially, for university next time round, and this is what many of us feared would be the consequence of putting up fees to such an extent.

“There isn’t the confidence there you will rack up all the debts and at the end of that you’ll still get a job that will enable you to pay it back. That confidence isn’t there so I worry about that very much and I worry about so many young people who would benefit from university now.

“Students just turning away from it and thinking it’s not going to make economic sense for them, that’s a disaster for them, and a disaster for the country as a whole.”

Barber was giving a lecture called ‘An Alternative to Austerity’ at Liverpool University, as part of the Burning Issues series of lectures.

In his speech, he said Britain was ‘in the middle of a perfect economic storm”, before outlining the TUC’s five-point plan which, he argued, is a credible alternative to the austerity measures put in place by the Coalition Government.

The plan contained: a “more realistic timescale” for deficit reduction, fairer taxation, a proper policy on growth, a strategy for employment and a fairer distribution of wealth.

He is currently locked in talks with government ministers concerning proposed changes to Public Sector pensions. Barber has said although he welcomes the change in the government’s position, the proposals must first be scrutinised in detail,  and the planned industrial action for 30th November still goes ahead.

“I worry about so many young people who would benefit from university now.”

The Southport-born Everton FC supporter, who lives in Muswell Hill, London, said Liverpool was a “city with a proud radical history,” adding “these are tough times for Britain and for Liverpool”.

Barber, who is the eighth leader of the TUC since the General Strike in 1926, also added both his beloved EFC and Britain’s economy require the same treatment to turn their fortunes around.

He said: “Just like in the wider economy, I want to see serious, sensible, patient investment that is about supporting long-term wealth creation, supporting jobs for the long-term, supporting economic development. The same should apply in football.”

The union leader also understands the huge responsibility placed on his shoulders as the figurehead of the trade union movement as more challenging times loom on the horizon, including the planned Public Sector strikes later this month.

“We are at a point in history where the potential problems we are going to face are just looking enormous,“ he said. “Working people desperately need a powerful voice articulating their worries, their fears, their anger, their ideas for how we can make things better.”

About Liam Deveney, JMU Journalism