As the UCU prepares for another round of strike action, and a further 14 universities vote to take part, more universities face potentially devastating cuts.
While there is a £1 billion surplus across higher education, those resources are unevenly distributed and over the last few years many universities have faced cuts.
Recently the University of Sunderland said it will close its history, politics and language courses, in line with a policy that all subjects need to be “financially sustainable”.
SOAS University of London has curtailed research leave and sacked its non-permanent academic staff. On 29 January Goldsmiths University of London announced 10-15% cut in its cost base over the next two years. They are preparing to offer voluntary redundancies (a scheme which may also cost millions).
At both SOAS and Goldsmiths management have cited deficits as the cause of the cuts, but failed to give clear financial information.
These cuts are related to the current phase of marketisation of higher education. In 2015 the government removed its quotas on student recruitment. Higher-tariff universities expanded in subjects like history and politics because they were relatively cheap to teach. Some lower-tariff universities have become undersubscribed in those subjects and find it difficult to sustain a full range of subjects.
This means a lot of students will miss out on opportunities to study; certain subjects will become the preserve of an elite. Meanwhile at higher-tariff universities staff workloads are rising, casualisation is increasing, and students are getting worse academic and pastoral support.
This system is unsustainable and is creating more and new inequalities. HE unions and the student movement need to fight to stop the cuts and reverse marketisation.
• an end to tuition fees;
• fully-funded universities paid for by taxation;
• a full range of courses in every UK region;
• for the UCU’s current demands on workload, pensions, casualisation and pay to be met in full.
• Taken with thanks from the Student Left Network website
• Cath Fletcher in the Guardian on university marketisation