Headlines: February 2nd, 2004

The public service union, UNISON, has welcomed the news that the government is to look at the effect of University top-up fees on entry to public service professions. A recent survey conducted by the union showed that more than two-thirds of current students would consider working in the public sector for a fixed period if their debts were paid off.The union has succeeded in persuading the Government to stop universities charging top-up tuition fees to nursing and other medical students. It is continuing to argue for the concession to be extended to social work students.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis welcomed the news that the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, had agreed to review the impact of top up fees on recruitment to the public services. Mr. Prentis said his union was opposed to variable and top up fees but had, over recent weeks, been pressing the Government to exempt student nurses, midwives and associated medical health professions from these fees.

He said that variable and top-up fees were a real deterrent to attracting graduates to work in the public services and there needed to be a package of measures to address the very real recruitment and retention problems faced by the public sector over a range of professions, including solicitors, environmental health officers, planning officers and social workers.