Student numbers to be slashed, schools to be merged – as Labour plans cuts

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BRITISH capitalism is desperately cutting its coat according to its cloth as far as education is concerned.

Deep in debt and risking state bankruptcy, the Brown government is about to slash state education, and savagely cut the number of university students, at the same time as slashing the number of primary and secondary schools through closures presented as mergers.

Paul Wellings, the incoming chair of the 1994 Group of research universities, says tuition fees in England must be increased and that the choice is either increasing funding by ending the cap on fees, or significantly slashing student numbers.

He is also proposing a higher rate of interest for the repayment of student loans.

Professor Wellings who is vice-chancellor of Lancaster University said ‘The government and higher education sector now face a clear choice: reduce student numbers or increase funding.’

The 1994 Group representing 18 research-intensive universities in England and Scotland, such as Durham, Exeter, St Andrews and Goldsmiths, wants to see the fees in England raised to a sufficiently high level to allow competition between institutions.

In fact Wellings by saying that fees must be raised is actually arguing for cutting the numbers of students sharply from working class and middle class homes.

Wellings’ comments come at a time when much larger numbers of young people want to go to university to avoid the scourge of unemployment and stand a better chance of getting a job.

The universities have already stated that they do not have the funding to meet this demand and that many thousands of young people are going to be turned away.

Unlimited fees, higher interest rates on loans, and competition amongst the elite universities for cash paying customers is a recipe for slashing student numbers qualitatively, shutting the university gates in the face of the majority of would-be students.

The thinking behind unlimited fees is very crude. It is that the reality of the slump is that tens of thousands of graduates cannot get jobs and their education has therefore been wasted. So let fees rise and student numbers drop. Education is to be for the rich.

Meanwhile schools minister Vernon Coaker is advocating that primary and secondary schools should employ dedicated business managers so that their ‘business’ can save thousands of pounds a year, in self-imposed cuts.

A government boosted survey carried out by National College for School Leadership (NCSL), says that it can identify strategic partnerships (mergers) with other schools, which can save schools time and money, and manage complex challenges – no doubt by increasing class sizes.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls is leading this work. He told The Times that he wanted to give a ‘strong push’ to the spread of new brands of education providers.

An incentive to develop this ‘branding’ is that Head Teachers who see that their schools adopt it will be able to breach the £120,000 cap on head teachers’ pay. Those who won’t will see Ofsted marking down their schools to the detriment of their pupils.

Top schools will be able to pool budgets and take control of the weakest schools forming chains or ‘brands’. Successful headmasters will have their own little ‘empires’.

These federations will be ‘sharing the best teachers, administrators and facilities’ and be making big cash savings, by ending ‘duplication’ and by making outright cuts.

This is the course that Labour is set to take, in a situation where the government, after propping up the banks, will have to massively slash education costs.

The way to get rid of this crisis is to get rid of the crisis-ridden capitalist system and its concept of education as a ‘business’.