Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Universities in the UK and Labour - the latter were too stupid to attend the former

I know that I post a lot of generally bad things on this site and I do apologise for this. But if you want to reign in ignorance and care little for the malice that rules this country I suggest you go to something a bit more jolly, such as Funny Dogs. In the meantime I going to cross post a thing I found on the Guardian which again demonstrate why needs to evacuate Parliament of this fuckstick government. This issue pertains to education and more specifically, Universities which I am currently attending why this issue really angers me.

It has taken more than 800 years to create one of the world's greatest education systems and it looks like it will take just six months to bring it to its knees. Britain's higher education system is superb – second only to the US, with 18 of our universities in the world's top 100 – and recognised across the globe as a gold standard.

But our gold standard system could be replaced with one of silver, bronze or worse, under swingeing cuts to the funding of higher education and science recently announced by the government. Exactly how much will be slashed and where the axe will fall is unclear, although it has been put at up to £2.5bn.

Such huge cuts in university budgets would have a devastating effect not only on students and staff, but also on Britain's international competitiveness, economy and ability to recover from recession. Research-intensive universities have been given some consolation; we certainly welcome the relative protection for research announced in December and the pronouncement that the needs of world-class institutions must be prioritised. But we are deeply concerned that cuts of this magnitude in overall funding will erode the sustainability of our research and affect even the most outstanding universities.

When Gordon Brown was asked if there was still money to spend on Labour priorities despite the public- sector deficit, he replied: "Of course there is." Perhaps the PM should consider what his international counterparts regard as priorities. Nicolas Sarkozy has just announced aninvestment of €11bn in higher education in France, stating he wants "the best universities in the world". Germany pumped a total of €18bn into promoting world-class research alongside university education, whileBarack Obama ploughed an additional $21bn into federal science spending.

Universities are not immune from this recession. But there seems to be a greater focus on cutting higher education funding than almost anything else. The health service, police and schools are all currently "protected", presumably due to their perceived importance at the ballot box. Not so, it seems, HE.

Some £600m of cuts to HE were identified in the pre-budget report, on top of £180m "efficiency savings" announced by the Higher Education Funding Council for England over 2009 and 2010. In December the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced a further cut of £135m for 2010/11.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies warns that additional cuts of 12.3% over 2011 and 2012 are needed if the government is to achieve its target of halving the national debt by 2013. This would mean another £1.6bn of cuts for the science and higher education budgets, bringing the grand total to £2.5bn – equivalent to a third of the current annual spend on higher education.

Conservative policy is unclear, but the party has indicated an intention to reduce the national debt more rapidly, which raises the spectre of even harder, faster and deeper cuts.

It is a mystery why we are being subjected to this. Students leave university equipped with skills that are an essential part of a successful knowledge economy. The UK is the world's second-most popular destination for international students, generating £2.9bn annually for universities, as well as off-campus expenditure estimated at £2.3bn.

With just 1% of the global population, we produce 7.9% of the world's research publications and 12% of all citations. The total contribution of higher education to the economy in 2007/8 was £33.4bn – equivalent to 2.3% of GDP. Our gross output exceeds that of either the pharmaceutical or the aerospace industry. Sadly, the UK can no longer claim to be world-leading in many fields of endeavour. What a great shame it would be to undermine one of the few spheres, namely our universities, in which we do actually still excel.

Some expect Lord Browne's review of higher education funding to solve the entire problem. This review was supposed to happen against a background of stable government funding. Browne's mission has become even more challenging and urgent against the background of the current proposed cuts. He needs to produce a rigorous assessment of how much each beneficiary of higher education – the graduate, employer and society as a whole – should contribute to the costs of this vital service to the nation.

Our politicians must take a responsible approach to the funding of higher education and recognise that it is one of the jewels in the country's crown, worthy of protection because of the extraordinary value that it brings to our society, international competitiveness and economy. We call on the government to state clearly that higher education will not be cut further and to seriously consider reversing cuts already proposed.

Steve Smith, the president of Universities UK, has warned that institutions face having to close hundreds of courses, with fewer academic staff and bigger classes. Reports suggest that as many as 30 universities may not survive in their current form if even minimal funding cuts are introduced.

We would go further than Smith's bleak assessment. We live in a world where ideas, innovation and entrepreneurialism are key to prosperity and wellbeing. Our universities are critical to supporting this agenda for the next 800 years. This is a defining moment. If politicians don't act now, they will be faced with meltdown in a sector that is vital to our national prosperity. They have been warned.

No comments: