Colleagues around the world may be aware of the massive cuts in UK higher education funding announced just before Christmas. On 22 December, the government announced that £135 million would be cut from higher education funding for 2010-11, on top of £180 million in “efficiency savings” that are already being implemented.
The context for these cuts was set by Lord Mandelson, who has responsibility for university funding at the end of last year, when he said that the pursuing the government’s skills agenda in the context of cuts in public spending would mean a new level of reliance on private funding and the private sector: ”Growth based so heavily on state funding cannot continue….That is why the development of a diverse set of funding streams is important if the quality of higher education is to be maintained or improved.” “In future”, he said, “new priorities will be chiefly supported by redistribution fo existing funds and the leverage of private investment rather than provision of new money”. Higher Ambitions, p. 22: http://www.bis.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/publications/Higher-Ambitions.pdf)
Lord Mandelson and the government are clear that universities must increase their dependence on private income via student fees, on endowments and on partnerships with the private sector. Indeed, more than this, he was explicit that the private sector and companies like BPP, now owned by the US company Apollo, which itself owns the University of Phoenix, would play a bigger role in higher education. “Alongside the development of our publicly funded universities we also see an important role for private providers over the next 10-15 years. The government has made it possible for such providers to gain degree awarding powers. We see no reason why this type of provision should not grow in the future”. (Higher Ambitions, p. 104).
As well as stimulating the growth of the private sector, these cuts will accelerate the job cutting and institutional re-engineering sweeping the sector. UCU has estimated that around 5000 jobs are already at risk and that these additional funding cuts will threaten another 9000 over the next few years. Together with the other unions in support services, UCU is defending to protect jobs at a national level and supporting branches in fighting back at local level wherever cuts are proposed. You can see the blogsite of the joint higher education unions here: http://defendhighereducation.org.uk/
To read more about UCU’s campaigning against job cuts and privatisation, click here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/defendeducation
and here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/stopprivatisation
For more on the recent funding cuts, click here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=4371&from=1676
For Lord Mandelson’s Higher Ambitions document, click here: http://www.bis.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/publications/Higher-Ambitions.pdf)
***What’s happening in your country? Is tertiary education under threat as a consequence of the global economic recession?***