‘YOU cannot make savage funding cuts without serious consequences, despite Lord Mandelson’s insulting efforts to sell the cuts as an opportunity,’ said UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt yesterday.
She added: ‘The government is abandoning a generation who instead of benefiting from education will find themselves on the dole alongside sacked teaching staff.
‘The government can come out with as many statements as it likes about the importance of education, how it will be protected from the recession and its own commitments to social mobility, but the hard facts and punitive cuts tell a much harsher and sadly more accurate story.
‘Other leading economies are investing money in universities in order to help economic growth and widen participation, yet our government seems intent on doing the opposite.
‘This approach is an insult and a snub to the thousands of students the government has been encouraging to reach for university for the entirety of their educational career.’
The UCU said a rise in applications to university was encouraging, but the severity of the planned cuts and restrictions on student places mean many students would miss out on university.
It further warned that those students fortunate enough to secure a place face increased class sizes, less contact with lecturers and record levels of debt.
Headline figures from university applications service UCAS out yesterday showed another record year for applicants to higher education – the fourth year running that full-time undergraduate applications have seen an increase.
As of 22 January 2010 there were 570,556 applicants, a rise of 106,389 or 22.9 per cent over 2009.
The National Union of Students also warned that record numbers of applicants face being turned away by universities.
UCAS said: ‘The UK saw an increase in applicants of 22.1 per cent, while overseas applicants rose from 55,245 to 71,105 (up 28.7 per cent).
UCAS analysis points to a number of underlying reasons for the increase:
• Applications to nursing degrees are up 73.7 per cent, which may be related to the news that the Nursing Diploma is being phased out between September 2011 and early 2013.
In addition, the 2010 figures include applications for Scottish nursing and midwifery courses (a total of 5,538 applicants) which were not previously channelled through UCAS.
• The later March deadline that was used in previous years for some art and design courses is no longer available for applicants to many existing and all new courses.
• Very significant increases in applications from those over 20 years of age are apparent (up 44.8 per cent for 21 to 24 year olds, and 63.4 per cent for over 25s).