University Students In Same Situation As Victorian 1890s, UCU Claims

Posted: Updated:
Print Article
University Students Are To Return To The 1890s
University Students Are To Return To The 1890s

It is a return to the dark ages for students as their contribution to university funding will reach the highest level since the 1890s, a report has warned.

University students will be footing nearly half the bill for funding by 2014 through higher tuition fees, while annual public spending on teaching and research will make up a mere 15% of universities' income by 2015. This will be the lowest since the first decade of the 20th century.

Far from making progression in the world of higher education, students will be in the same situation as those attending university in the 19th Century. They will be plunged into the past to a time when Queen Victoria sat on the throne - to a decade which marked the birth of Sherlock Holmes and the first Olympics.

The analysis was conducted by the University and College Union (UCU), which has now accused the Government of "passing the buck" from the state to students. UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said the Government plans threatened "decades of progress".

"These plans will endanger the health of the sector. You cannot maintain a world-class university system in the 21st Century by turning the clock back to the 1900s and before.

The union said its findings highlighted a "retreat" from public investment in higher education in England.

The study forecasts public expenditure on teaching and research will drop by 44% over the next three years, from £6.6bn in 2011/12 to £3.7bn in 2014/15, thus increasing the burden placed on students, according to the union.

Meanwhile, the proportion of funding which comes from students is expected to reach 47.2% by 2013/2014 - the highest level in more than a century.

"This Government's regressive university reforms will accelerate this process further and see annual public investment in teaching and research fall to its lowest proportion in over a century," Hunt said.

Toni Pearce, vice-president of the National Union of Students (NUS), told The Huffington Post UK the level of education funding was "deplorably low".

"Considering the state of the economy, it is inexcusable for the government to display such obvious disregard for young people by asking them to bear the burden.

"Higher education benefits the UK socially, culturally and economically and the Government should be investing in it properly," she continued. The economy is stagnating and youth unemployment is rising rapidly but still our Government refuses to protect investment in education."

"Our universities are a public good which currently generate billions for the economy, why put that at risk by starving institutions of public funds and forcing students to foot the bill?"

Researchers analysed official funding records over the last 120 years to compile their report.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "Our reforms put university finances on to a long-term sustainable basis.

"Students will have more study choices and funding for universities will follow their decisions.

"We estimate that total funding for the sector could increase by around 10% over the spending review period."