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Universities in the UK set to become the preserve of big business and the wealthy

January 5th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), blogs on a report released this morning by the University and College Union (UCU) which “has revealed annual public spending on university teaching and research in England will fall to its lowest proportion in over a century, as a result of the government’s new higher education reforms.”

Sally goes on to say that: “Our study also highlights how as spending on teaching and research falls, the burden on students to fund higher education will increase. By 2013/2014 the proportion students contribute to university funding (through higher tuition fees) will be 47.2% – the highest since the 1890s when university was the preserve of the wealthiest.”…..

These plans will put at risk decades of progress in opening up access to education and will endanger the health of the sector. You cannot maintain a world-class university system in the 21st century by turning the clock back to the 1900s and before.”

For the last year universities in England have been cutting back on expenditure and making teachers and researchers redundant. Research is to a large extent now dependent on external funding, meaning the research agenda is essentially being driven by big business.

The first effects of the increase in fees were seen in figures released by the Higher Education Funding Authority as reported in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper.

Whilst the number of UK-born students applying to start university this autumn has slumped by almost 8%,  applications from students aged 40 and over (who in the past have had lower incomes) have fallen by 15.4% compared with last year. Those aged 20 have dropped by 15%.

The Guardian also points out that “the number of applicants from England has dropped more sharply than those from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. This is not surprising since institutions in those countries will be able to charge up to £9,000, but devolved governments will provide generous financial support to their own students.”

As research gets taken over by big business, university education will, as in the 19th Century, become a preserve of the wealthy.


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