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A thousand cuts: flaying higher education starts here. December 23, 2009

Posted by calvinus in The Academic Life, Training.
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And so it begins.

Universities funding cut by £533m for higher education.

I know this is inevitable and it isn’t as large a cut as I first feared but it is only the first.  There will be many more.  However, it isn’t the size of the cut that worries me, nor is it the fact that the information has crept out when the country is worrying about the weather and getting back for Christmas.  What worries me more is the following,

The government also wants to see more degrees completed over two years rather than three as a way of easing the funding crisis and to broaden education to a wider range of students.

This would tend to appeal to those doing more vocational subjects such as engineering and law.

More degrees to be completed over two years, rather than three? That is not a degree.  The three-year degree is bad enough, and rather typical of the English education system in that it is far, far too focussed and results orientated.  Spitting people out of the system with a two-year degree, most likely a foundation degree by the looks of things is just a way of keeping young people in a system, off the statistics sheets for as long as possible.  2 year “vocational subjects”.  Be honest.  Invigorate some form of apprenticeship programme that doesn’t involve Siralan, you muppet.  Universities are not the place to that.  Of course, it will help you reach the target of 50% of da yoof in higher education.  “Higher” than what, remains to be seen.

I am, sadly, resigned to very hard times ahead for the HE sector, especially at “widening participation” institutions such as my own.  I am resigned to the cuts in funding, I am resigned to the massive spike in workload and the job insecurity.  Don’t make matters worse than they already by adding insult to injury with bizarre, illogical directives that will obliterate any semblance of quality in an already stressed system.  I have no idea what will be left of the HE sector by the end of this.

Comments»

1. kjhaxton - December 24, 2009

Yep just the nightmare before Christmas really. It is difficult to reconcile letters like this other than with the notion that the government made a promise in the first place that they would get 50% participation in HE then didn’t expect to be still in power to realize that promise or pay for it! No idea as yet how this affects us or our WP agenda either.

2. calvinus - December 30, 2009

This all depends on how you define widening participation. A cynic might suggest that a number of institutions view WP as simply a matter of dropping the entry requirements (interestingly, we have increased ours). WP has to be more strategic and targetted than it currently is, as far as I can see it. Either way, cutting the number of student places, and the funding for those places, and expecting people to teach the same degree on two thirds of the funding will be interesting. Oh, and keep, or increase, the quality of the tuition? How does one enhance research-led teaching, whether it is scientific research or pedagogic research, when the time you have to do that research is now taken up with extra teaching?


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