Universities face massive funding cuts in 2010

Posted on December 24, 2009 by

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Lord Mandelson announced on Tuesday a severe cut back of government funding for universities, with a funding cut of over half a billion pounds for 2010 in stall.  Universities who took more than their quota for this years intake will also be fined £3700 per head.  The move will see universities be forced to economise by cutting staff, increasing class sizes and shutting down costly departments.  Some courses may also be cut to 2 years to save on money, as well as a shortening of summer vacations being forecasted.  There are even fears that some universities may have to merge or close.

Mandy

This development continues the government’s drive to steadily cut funding from universities in a bid to force them to raise finances privately through increased fees and from the private sector.  But many student and staff campaigners feel that increased and uncapped fees (allowing popular universities to charge more) will discourage poorer yet able students from entering higher education and adversely affect quality at less popular universities.  It is also feared that reliance on the private sector may also see universities effectively becoming outsources R&D units for corporations and businesses, threatening a long tradition of wide academic study as unprofitable subjects (e.g. humanities) fail to gain outside funding.  Science and engineering degrees, on the other hand, are much more expensive, and are more likely to face the axe unless they compete for corporate funding in exchange for influence on the curriculum.

One student campaigner said “this makes a joke of the government’s targets.  One minute they’re saying they want to see more people go to uni, the next they’re punishing universities for taking too many students and increasing the financial burden for them.  Higher education is steadily being turned into a profit-generating wing for corporations rather than societies centres for learning and research for the wider public good and for study for study’s sake .”

In many other countries similar moves to privatise higher education have seen massive student unrest, particularly in Austria and Germany (where a vast majority of universities saw occupations over the Bologna reforms), Italy (where thousands brought the country to chaos during “the anomalous wave”) and in Latin America.

However, Britain has seen very little protest and resistance in comparison, with only some actions in especially Manchester and Sussex universities occurring recently.  Southampton has some anti-fees campaigners, but as of yet no joined up campaign against privatisation and corporatisation creep, despite Southampton University facing criticism from activists for being one of most heavily corporatised universities with significant private research funding including from BAE systems, and the recent sort-of sell-off of Boldrewood campus into a partnership with Lloyd’s Register.  Although this has gauranteed funding, campaigners fear that steady increases in private influence could erode academic independence and integrity in future.

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Posted in: News, Students, UK