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15 unions worldwide have now signed an international agreement on defending education and employment standards in the context of global marketisation. Together, these unions represent more than half a million tertiary education workers around the world.

The deepening global recession and the cutting back of public provision will only give greater encouragement to a burgeoning private sector, making the international agreement only more relevant and important.

We are now turning this community of over 500,000 academics into something tangible.

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Massive cuts and privatisation for UK universities

UK universities have been rocked in the last month by 40% cuts to public funding, proposals to raise student tuition fees to £9000, to completely marketise the funding base for many subjects and, predictably, to make it easier for US for-profit companies to expand to fill the gaps.

Firstly, the Browne review recommended removing the cap from student fees (they are currently capped at just over £3000), allowing universities to charge whatever they liked. The government has since indicated that it will cap fees at £9000, a move that will still make the UK the most expensive place to study in the world, saddle students with staggering debts and lead to the stratification of provision. UCU said that this represented ‘the final nail in the coffin for an affordable university degree for the vast majority of ordinary families.’: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=5058&from=5047&start=11

The other bombshell in the Browne report was the recommendation to remove all public funding from all but a few stretguc priority subjects, making arts and humanities and many social science subjects entirely dependent on student recruitment for their survival. UCU said that this would lead to the closure of departments and whole universities, the overall narrowing of provision and would have a ‘chilling’ effect on innovation. In short, it represents an attack on everyting that universities are supposed to stand for.

Shortly afterwards, the government confirmed its widely anticipated 40%  cuts to university funding, indicating that it intended to enact the recommendations of the Browne report. As the union emphasised, this will have a devastating effect on the sector, leading to a loss of capacity and innovation that will take decades to repair, while betraying generations of young people by shutting them out of higher education: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=5066&from=5047

But don’t worry, says the government. All will be well, for for private sector will step in to save the day. As we’ve posted here in the past, US education companies are moving into the UK in a big way and have been lobbying the government for a ‘level playing field’ that would give them access to publicly subsidised loans, public funding, and university title. In short, they want to produce the same conditions in the UK that enabled the astronomical growth of the for-profit sector in the USA. The trouble is, as we have pointed out, this is the high road to the same kind of mis-selling and corruption scandals that have rocked the US for-profit sector recently. We tried to tell the government this in October with the publication of a new report that detailed these problems: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=5023&from=5003. But it seems they weren’t listening.

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