Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
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National Student Forum delivers recommendations to the heart of Government

National Student Forum delivers recommendations to the heart of Government

DEPARTMENT FOR INNOVATION, UNIVERSITIES AND SKILLS News Release (063/2008) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 17 October 2008

Students will deliver their recommendations for improving the student experience to the heart of government as Maeve Sherlock, Chair of the National Student Forum (NSF) will present their recommendations to the new Minister for Students Lord Tony Young today.

The first NSF report focuses on a number of themes, including Student Finance and Information Advice and Guidance (IAG).

The Forum felt that given the huge variety in courses and colleges, all students need access to good information and advice to enable them to make the right choices about where and what to study. Visiting an institution can make all the difference to a choice and students should not be deterred from doing so before applying on grounds of cost.

Key recommendations for IAG include:

* Develop a first port of call portal to gather in one place the routes to different kinds of online information;

* Define and introduce best practice guidelines for pre-entry information provided by universities and colleges;

* Introduce an entitlement for all students in receipt of an Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) to receive a grant to visit at least two universities or colleges; and

* Ensure high-quality careers advice by professionalising and raising the profile of school and college advisors.

The Forum thought it was essential that students should feel supported and fully informed when undertaking the significant financial commitment that entering higher education entails.

Recommendations for Student Finance include:

* Introduce a choice of loan instalment options;
* Employ transparency over tuition fee income and allocations; and
* Raise awareness of student financial advisory services.

Maeve Sherlock, Chair of the NSF:

"It has been a privilege to work alongside fellow students in our first year as members of the National Student Forum. This report offers our views on some of the key issues facing British students today. I hope it will be of interest to ministers and policymakers, universities, colleges and students alike.

"We started on the key themes of deciding what and where to study, how to pay for it and how to get advice on what to do next. However there is still much more to do. We are looking forward to a second year in which we can develop our thinking in new areas and in considering particular aspects of our work in more detail.

"I am delighted that ministers have shown such interest in hearing the views and experiences of students directly. We look forward to the Government's response to our recommendations and to continuing to work together to improve the experience of students in higher education, in all their diversity."

Receiving the report, Minister for Students Lord Young said:

"It is essential to listen to the views of students when considering improvements to the higher education sector, so I am delighted to receive this report. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Maeve and the forum for all the time they have given up in order to discuss and report back on the issues that are important to them.

"When this independent forum was set up earlier this year, Government made a commitment to respond fully to the report and I look forward to doing so in the near future."

NUS President Wes Streeting said:

"We welcome this report, which contains many useful points for discussion, particularly on issues such as information, advice and guidance. The students on the forum have clearly laid out their expectations, and it will be interesting to monitor the progress made against these statements in future NSF reports.

"NUS is pleased to have contributed to the NSF, and as the representative voice for students we look forward to working with the Government in order to find solutions to the issues raised."

The forum also formed sub-groups to look at improving the experience of international, postgraduate and disabled students. The forum will go on and develop these themes further in the next year.

Notes to Editors

1. For a full copy of the report please go to http://www.dius.gov.uk/policy/nsf/

2. The Forum is part of the wider Student Listening Programme and has been developed in partnership with the National Union of Students, the National Postgraduate Committee, the Mature Students' Union, the Open University Students' Association, Skill - the national bureau for students with disabilities and the British Council. Each of these organisations has worked closely with DIUS to nominate students to be Forum members. And they have worked very closely with DIUS to ensure that the Forum accurately represents the diversity of our student population.

3. The Student Listening Programme ensures students are able to make their views and ideas heard with Ministers responding to specific issues raised. In addition to the National Student Forum, the Listening Programme includes,

* Ministerial visits to university campuses across England with Ministers meeting students face-to-face to hear their experiences first-hand; and

* Five 'student juries' made up of students from across the country held in early 2008 looking at high profile issues that matter to them such as student finance, widening participation and learning support.

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