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The News Line: News UNIVERSITIES GOING BUST! – UCU condemns barbaric plans
Students demonstrating in London against £9,000 tuition fees
More universities risk going bust under the government’s proposals to axe teaching budgets and replace the money with higher student fees, according to a report released yesterday by the National Audit Office (NAO).

The University and College Union (UCU) said the report’s ‘worrying conclusions’ were further proof that the government had to look again at its ‘barbaric’ plans to axe the entire teaching budgets of some institutions and shift the burden of funding higher education from the state to the individual.

The union’s concerns were echoed this week by hundreds of Oxbridge academics who accused the government of forcing universities to ‘fly blind’ into an untested system of funding higher education (see page 2).

The Regulating financial sustainability in higher education report warns that ‘the new funding framework, coupled with a squeeze in public funding, is likely to increase the level of risk within the sector.’

It goes on to warn that the new system will potentially raise the number of institutions at risk of failing.

The report examined the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) regulation of the financial sustainability of universities in England and revealed that five per cent of universities were considered to be at higher financial risk.

All institutions already at higher risk have been in the higher risk category for at least four years, with one at higher risk for 12 years.

Over 25 per cent of universities in 2009/2010 were performing below at least one financial benchmark.
Nine per cent of institutions have had a deficit in at least two of the last three years.

In 2007 HEFCE highlighted concerns in ten institutions outside the ‘at higher risk’ category. By 2010 that number had risen to 43.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘We believe that our universities do an excellent job and letting them fail would be an act of academic barbarity.

‘It would also be one of cowardice unless the government is prepared to front up and tell us which institutions it doesn’t believe are worth saving.’

l The government’s u-turn on channelling business through the Post Office spells disaster for the future of the post office network and is a ‘betrayal of Britain’s most vulnerable’, says the Communication Workers Union.

The Department for Work and Pensions yesterday announced that the government is taking the contract for benefit payments away from the Post Office and giving it to private company PayPoint.

The contract was worth £15 million a year to the Post Office and brought vital footfall into the network. The government promised to make the Post Office the ‘front office for government’ in November, but is now cutting even existing services.

Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary, said: ‘This is a cut too far. Taking government business away from the Post Office on top of privatising Royal Mail and taking that business away will cause the biggest closure programme we’ve ever seen.

Instead of promoting trusted government-owned brands which are accessible to everyone, they’ve chosen a private company which many vulnerable people on benefits will not be able to access.

‘It’s a betrayal of Britain’s most vulnerable and a despicable act of vandalism on our post office network.’
 
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