UNIVERSITIES are being hit hard by the capitalist crisis with thousands of jobs and courses going, and with students facing a lifting of the cap on fees, with the top universities demanding that there must be no cap at all.
Universities are to be businesses! This means raising fees, cutting debt, slashing budgets and sacking thousands of university staff.
University and college union leaders have already condemned the decision to axe around 100 mostly part-time jobs and 250 humanities courses at Cardiff University’s Centre for Lifelong Learning.
Cardiff University had planned to cut all of its humanities courses.
Meanwhile, the University of Wolverhampton intends to cut 250 jobs, almost 10 per cent of the total staffing at the university, in order to tackle £8m of debts.
Wolverhampton is planning to ‘reset’ itself so that it is more employer-focused.
Wolverhampton’s accounts for 2007-08 showed an income of £148.5m and a deficit on continuing operations of £4.7m.
The UCU lecturers union’s position is that these kinds of cuts throughout the university system will be at the expense of the quality of education that students receive, under the guise of turning to industry and becoming more businesslike.
At Sussex University hundreds of jobs are at risk as the University budgets for 2009/10 by cutting costs by £3m, and then cutting its costs for 2010/11 by £5m.
Professor Michael Farthing, the vice-chancellor, admitted that ‘this is an unsettling time for all staff and the campus community at Sussex’.
The government meanwhile is stipulating that there must be 10,000 additional student places in the university system.
England’s most prestigious universities, including Oxbridge, have however said no to this quota, adding that they want to see either a massive government investment in university education, or to be allowed to charge economically viable fees. A figure of £18,000 a year has been quoted.
Thirteen universities have said that they do not want a single extra student, never mind the extra 300 that a number have been nominated for.
The 13 that have declined the offer are: Bristol, Cambridge, Exeter, Imperial College London, King’s College London, Leeds, Liverpool, London Metropolitan University, Nottingham, Oxford, Southampton, University College London and Warwick.
Eleven of the 13 belong to the Russell Group of leading research-intensive universities, which has 16 English members in all.
Its director general, Dr Wendy Piatt, said: ‘Maintaining quality is sacrosanct and the Russell Group is concerned about underfunded extra students – there is already a funding shortfall for teaching at our universities.’
The Russell Group are campaigning for the privatisation of the universities, and their biggest ally is the Labour government which is on the point of lifting the cap on fees, at the same time as it is preparing to make savage higher education cuts.
Every member of the Labour cabinet who went to a university had no fees to pay and was eligible for a student maintenance grant.
They enjoyed the benefits of free state higher education, which the Labour v government has abolished to the point where it is about to lift the cap on fees.
The period ahead will see education returned to being the preserve of the sons and daughters of the rich, with non-elite universities being cut till they close, if the privateers are not stopped.
The UCU lecturers and the NUS students unions must fight for the abolition of fees and the restoration of maintenance grants, and for industrial action to bring down the Brown government to bring in a workers government that will restore fully-funded free state education.