Cable Urges Privatised Unis, A Graduate Tax, 2-Year Degree Courses And Part-Time Students

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TWENTY FIVE per cent funding cuts will mean 33,844 jobs being destroyed in English colleges. This news comes just a week after an analysis of similar level cuts to universities revealed over 22,500 university jobs will go, bringing the total jobs to go in post-16 education in England to a staggering 56,344.

Sally Hunt, the UCU union leader called the scale of the cuts facing further and higher education ‘a staggering hammer blow to the country’.

She added that, ‘The staff who survive this cull will have far less time to spend with students and will have considerably heavier workloads to deal with.’ The UCU has also worked out that the massive funding cuts mean that ‘at least 170,000 applicants will miss out on a university place this year’.

Hunt called this situation ‘frightening’.

Nevertheless, this is all that British capitalism can afford. Last Thursday, the Lib Dem Business Secretary Cable outlined this prospect.

He said that students ‘almost certainly will have to pay more but that is, at best, only part of the answer. The truth is that we need to rethink the case for our universities from the beginning.’ British capitalism is going to have to start again.

There is very little place in Cable’s universities of tomorrow for the arts. He states: ‘the CBI estimates that by 2014 there will be unmet demand for 775,000 roles requiring higher level science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Around 60% of businesses expect problems recruiting staff with STEM skills over the next three years. . . It cannot be right that a student invests time and money in getting a university qualification which they believe will lead to a rewarding career, and state support to get it, only to find that it turns out to be a dead end.’

He adds: ‘The reality is we are going to have to develop a model in which the balance of funding for higher education in England combines less public support and more private investment from those who benefit most from it.’

Further: ‘I am interested in. . .variable graduate contributions tied to earnings. I have spoken to Lord Browne about this and he has assured me that he is looking at this issue as part of his review.’

He adds: ‘A larger graduate contribution. . .is only part of the solution and there will still be severe financial pressures in the next few years.’

There also has to be a cull in university numbers and a very severe dumbing down. Cable says: ‘The Labour Government set an ambition for 50% participation. Some of us have long questioned whether this was sensible as well as affordable.’

Cable’s solution is to end the dividing line between HE and FE, have two-year instead of three-year degree course, and many more part-time and learn-at-home or -at-work courses. He asked the question: ‘Towards part time rather than full time study?’ and answers it: ‘At the very least government should remove any bias in funding against these activities. At present there is a heavy bias towards traditional, full-time, three-year degrees for 18 year olds, rather than part-time or adult or FE learning.’

He asks: ‘how does the system deliver better outcomes with less state funding overall? . . .One approach is to allow the market to operate more freely.’

The universities are to be privatised, and courses and studies devised to suit the immediate interests of private employers. Cable explains: ‘But an expansion of providers doesn’t have to mean an expansion of degree-awarding bodies. . .Good quality higher education can be delivered by institutions that don’t themselves award the qualifications that their students take. Indeed, I can see real benefits for institutions that focus on providing excellent teaching, in linking themselves to established brands with global brands with global recognition when it comes to awarding degrees.’ We can look forward to the world-wide McDonald’s degree!