Higher education

Degrees of marketisation

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The new Higher Education White Paper marks a step change in the neoliberal transformation of universities. Jim Wolfreys looks at the ideology behind the government's plans, what it will mean for students, staff and the nature of teaching, and how we can resist

The government's Higher Education White Paper will disrupt and potentially break up the existing system of higher education in England, deterring poorer students from university, subordinating teaching and research to the logic of privatisation and competition, and paving the way for the closure both of courses and of entire institutions.

It makes claims about putting "students at the heart of the system" and "excellent teaching back at the heart of every student's university experience" that are flatly and comprehensively contradicted by the entire content of the document.

Universities Inc

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Outbursts of anger from students and academics greeted the plans of philosopher AC Grayling to establish the New College of the Humanities (NCH) - a new for-profit private university with fees of £18,000.

Peter Hall, a financier who has donated more than £450,000 to the Tory party, has provided the money to promote his vision of a market-driven education. To dismiss the NCH merely as a finishing school for the super-rich (which it will be) fails to capture its significance.

Another despot falls

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What does the London School of Economics (LSE) have in common with Mariah Carey?

Last month both were exposed as recipients of £1.5 million and $1 million respectively from the Gaddafi family. One can only hope that Carey, like former LSE director Howard Davies, will also be forced by popular pressure to step down from her job.

The downfall of Davies, who called British undergraduate students "loss-making" and international students "high-margin products", has been something to relish.

Education at the Crossroads

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The coalition government has launched a colossal attack on all aspects of our education system. Terry Wrigley argues that this is an acceleration of previous governments' policies to drive the market into the heart of learning and will deepen a class hierarchy of institutions and students.


A police officer amid the aftermath of students' "Day X3" protest in December. Photo: Geoff Dexter

Education demolition

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Lord Browne's recommendation of unlimited tuition fees and the introduction of the free market into universities constitutes a devastating assault on access to education by working class people. Mark Bergfeld considers the effects of the proposals and how they can be stopped.

Lord Browne's proposals of lifting the cap from tuition fees and installing a free market in university funding is the largest attack on higher education (HE) we have seen to date. The spending review has twisted the knife further, by cutting central funding to all but the "priority" subjects. The signals are alarming.

Support Tusc!

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I put myself forward as the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (Tusc) candidate for Tottenham because cuts in my college are a microcosm of the cuts threatened by all the main parties.

An electoral challenge to David Lammy MP had to be mounted. The campaign is gathering momentum. A growing team of people from the college and the community have been postcarding door to door and on the street. The response has been really positive.

I've lived and worked in Tottenham for 21 years and have seen the effects of rising social inequality. We now have the highest unemployment in London and life expectancy is 17 years lower than in the wealthiest areas.

Teaching Labour a lesson

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In education, young people from working class backgrounds are struggling with overcrowded classrooms, poor resources and overstretched teachers.

Without the advantages of educated families or private tutoring, their choices on leaving school are narrow. Tuition fees make progression to university an impossible dream for many and the education on offer in further education colleges is increasingly directed to narrow, utilitarian "employability" skills, at a time when there are precious few employers taking people on.

Further education: Time to expand, not cut

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London Metropolitan University is facing massive funding cuts after an audit by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) discovered that university management had been submitting inaccurate data.

Funding depends on student numbers but they have a very tight definition of a student: to qualify, students must have taken all the assessments in all their modules.

HEFCE discovered retrospectively that London Met had been submitting the number of students deemed capable of progressing, which is not the same thing as those who actually complete their course. It turned out that thousands of students didn't qualify for funding. As a result, London Met must pay back £38 million in overpaid grant and faces losing around £20 million a year.

Top-up fees - Education as luxury

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A recent BBC poll of 53 university vice-chancellors reveals that two thirds want the top-up fee cap to be increased from the current £3,000.

More than half of those polled would like the fees to rise to at least £5,000, with some even calling for either a £20,000 cap or none at all. The poll coincides with the government's announcement that fee levels are to be reviewed this summer.

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