Sweeping cuts to university budgets announced
Funding cuts announced on Monday will slash university budgets by £518m.The first university budget cuts since Labour came to power in 1997 will see £215m cut from teaching budgets, a real terms cut 1.6%. Capital spending will be reduced by 15% for the academic year 2010/11.These cuts come at a time when applications for Universities were ‘surging’, stoking fears of vast cuts in student numbers and a hiking of fees in order to balance their budgets.Already universities are experiencing an unprecedented rise in applications, with some reporting increases of up to 40%. Steve Smith, president of the Vice-Chancellor’s group Universities UK, estimates that some 200,000 people could lose out on place.Fears about place cuts have led the President of the National Union of Student (NUS) to condemn the announcement.Wes Streeting argues that the cuts will cause “irreversible damage” to higher education. He stated, “Singling out universities for cuts of this kind seems to me to be an extraordinary act of self harm by the government”.The vast cuts have also led to fears amongst students about the quality of teaching and fees.Oxford students have widely condemned the government’s decision to cut the Universities budget with such ferocity.“The scale of these cuts is bound to have an effect on teaching. Larger tutorials, larger classes and less of them will surely be the result”, Kate Travers commented. “The plans will only serve to blunt nation’s competitive edge in the labour market.”Camilla Jones, a finalist, commented “access is surely going to be hit by this decision. All the work that Oxford and other universities have done to improve social mobility will be undone. Fees will have to rise considerably to meet this shortfall and will put the poorest off applying.”With universities receiving their individual budgets in the coming weeks, Oxford will have to brace itself for a huge swathe of cuts. The University already has to provide around 50% of the teaching costs for its students.The announcement of cuts can only add to fears that there will be a rise in student fees. With student debt already at record highs in the UK, a rise in fees could worsen the situation.It seems now, almost inevitable that fees will have to rise, and by a large extent. This is especially true if the government want half of the population to meet to attend university, whilst considerably cutting the HE Budget.This will not only hit price of the education available, it is also bound to negatively impact on subsidies, with many Oxford Colleges heavily subsidising food, rent and accommodation amongst other things.There are worries that wealthier colleges will be better able to subsidise their students in while students at poorer colleges will be hit harder by the government’s decision.