The Week

1st April 2011 at 01:00

Taking the Tube through central London first thing last Saturday, it was somewhat disconcerting to be almost engulfed by flags, banners and T-shirts sporting education's catchiest acronym, NASUWT. It's too early for conference (that little beauty is in Glasgow over Easter, whoop), so what could possibly have got these teaching activists up and into town so early, with their neatly packed picnics over one arm? The answer was, of course, the March for the Alternative, the TUC's snappily named protest against the cuts. Bonus points must go to the NASUWT's demo-material-production-and-distribution department for the proliferation of their paraphernalia. Perhaps it's time the chaps at the NUT upped their game. Planting a great big poster of Christine Blower's face on Fortnum and Mason's roof during the next rally ought to do it.

Talking of protesters, Save EMA campaigners were left scratching their heads this week after Michael Gove magicked a big new pile of wonga out of nowhere to add to the maintenance grant's replacement. Some claimed victory. Others claimed it was Government deception. Good news, then, that there appears to be more money. Not such good news that there is a lot less than before. To be sure, #163;180 million is better than a poke in the eye with a Btec level 4, but it's not the #163;560 million that used to be set aside for the EMA. While some may say it's a U-turn, it could also be clever politicking - Mr Gove has probably done enough to encourage most of the campaign's lay members to give it a rest.

If the country's most deprived students are not going to be put off further and higher education by the death of the EMA, the consequences of the introduction of expanded university tuition fees are yet to be seen. This week saw HE institutions falling over each other to announce that they are going to charge the maximum fee of #163;9,000 a year. Only a handful have bucked the trend and made the possibly reputation-damaging decision to go low. The first was the lesser-known Bishop Grosseteste University College in Lincoln, which is to charge just #163;7,500. Following the easyUni decision, it was immediately reported locally that the "teachers of the future" would be attracted to the city to study because of the cheap rates. Who said the problem of the profession's lowly status had been resolved?

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