Sunday, 17 October 2010

Grim Times

Well the attack on Middlesex Philosophy will soon seem like a very minor event in the face of the forthcoming massive governmental cuts in Higher Education in the UK. Cuts are likely to be about £4.2 Billion, with that manifesting as a 79% reduction in the teaching grant. It is difficult to speculate on precisely how this will work out in reality. Indeed, I find it particularly difficult to think and write about. However, there is a clear agenda to specifically target Arts and Humanities subjects, plus a move towards more of a 'free market' model, where universities can and will have to dramatically raise their fees in order to survive. The exact details will appear in the next couple of weeks, with university Vice Chancellors then having to look carefully at their emergency plans and make some difficult decisions. One can probably expect many courses and departments to close, plus an indeterminate number of universities to perish.

This is a massive trauma to Higher Education in the UK, likely to (re)create a two tier system where a university education is only a live option for the children of the rich. In the current language of 'impact' - the much debated term in research assessment reviews of late - the effects are likely to be immense, distorting the opportunities of generations to come, reducing the nation's cultural capital and resources, and economically undermining all of those industries that are largely reliant upon HE (publishing obviously springs most easily to mind). Grim times.

The only upside would seem to be a large increase in the number of independent academics with time on their hands to do the research that they have always wanted to.

[Addendum: a good summary of some of the issues, with comments, can be found here.]

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