Backward Britain – Reading shuts Physics Department

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THE backwardness of British capitalism was revealed yesterday for all to see when Reading University shut down its Physics Department.

As usual, the reality is the exact opposite of the Blair government’s propaganda, that it is dedicated to the development of the most advanced sciences.

The heaviness of the blow delivered at Reading was reflected in a statement by NUS rep Ilana Rapaport.

She commented: ‘This closure is out of step with the national interest in developing the UK’s science base. The government has rightly committed itself to doubling the number of physics students in the UK by 2010. The Physics Department at Reading had an established reputation for innovation and excellence in teaching. This decision is short-sighted and ill-judged.’

However, the reality is that since 1999 seventy Departments have been closed at Reading University.

The UCU lecturers union also delivered its own warning. It said: ‘This afternoon’s decision to axe the Physics Department at Reading University is part of a potentially irreversible decline of UK science that could soon see parts of the UK unable to provide courses in both science and maths.’

The UCU continued: ‘10 per cent of UK science and maths courses have been axed in the last decade.’

This is the decade of three Labour governments, all supposedly dedicated to the development of science and to the ‘knowledge economy.’

Sally Hunt, the joint general secretary of the UCU, added: ‘The prime minister said earlier this month that science will be as important for Britain’s economic future as stability. Today’s decision to axe Reading’s Physics Department makes a mockery of the government’s well-intentioned plans for the UK to be any sort of leader in global science provision or at the forefront of future innovation.’

Blair lives in another world, and is able to believe 100 per cent in his own spin, until he is corrected by the ever sharpening contradictions of the real world, as he has been over Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sally Hunt continued: ‘Government and funders must no longer sit on their hands if we are serious about being able to meet the challenges of the 21st century. In countries such as India and China science parks are being put up, not pulled down.’

Both the Wilson and Blair Labour governments began their lives as alleged champions of scientific advance. Wilson constantly repeated the phrase that his government was developing the ‘white hot heat of the technological revolution’.

Blair, since 1997, has been repeating similar expressions about the ‘knowledge economy’ and about how Britain had to find itself in the world as the most advanced scientific state.

The reality of both governments was quite different to their declared words.

Wilson dropped his ‘technological revolution’ and sought instead to save the pound by having sky-high interest rates and by bringing in the first anti-union laws, called ‘In place of strife’.

Blair has gloried in five wars and a massive privatisation campaign, aimed at privatising health and education, and has spent many tens of billions of pounds on both.

In particular, his government has brought in measures that allowed higher education to be both privatised and strangled.

He chronically under-funded the universities, then abolished students’ grants, brought in fees, and then variable tuition fees of £3,000 a year.

The result has been a slashing of student numbers, and a slashing of courses and university departments with many university Chancellors calling for a massive increase in tuition fees as the only way to develop their universities.

The end result of the privatisation policies has been the emergence of a backward Britain, heading for a handful of elite universities, with fees to match, while the rest are cut to ribbons.

Only a socialist revolution can take Britain forward and maintain it as an advanced country.

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