Press release from EAN– H.E. White Paper – a disaster for universities; a government in chaos

29 Jun
Below is a press release by the Education Activist Network responding to yesterdays HE White paper. ROU will be publishing out own comments soon.

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The coalition government’s White Paper on H.E. has been released today. Its proposals have been greeted with alarm by academics, students, parents and education activists around the country.

It will force universities into competition with one another, opening them up to rampant privatisation, and put business and profit before the needs of those who work and study in these institutions.

The H.E. White Paper undermines universities’ autonomy and their contribution to free- thinking and critical oppositionality in modern society.

With increased interference from government, on the one hand, and exposure to the caprices of the market on the other, this cynical, morally bankrupt move by the government threatens to dismantle the H.E. system and tender it out to the highest bidder. It shows Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts’ total disregard for social equality and justice.

The core values of universities are being eroded and the Education Activist Network calls on all its members to resist these measures with all their vigour.

As tuition fees rise to up to £9,000 per year, and after Grayling’s private, for-profitNewCollegeof the Humanities has announced fees of £18,000, the White Paper proposes the following :

  • To cap the number of students receiving government-funded loans
  • To redefine HEFCE’s role so that it becomes simply the ‘promoter of a competitive system’
  • To grant degree-awarding powers to new bodies, i.e., private H.E. providers
  • To interfere in universities’ autonomy and to wrap them in red tape
  • To stimulate self-interested competition between academics

All this means that:

  • Universities will be prey to market forces and business interventionism
  • Students will pay three times more, while academics will have less time for teaching and research
  • Institutions up and down the country will be at risk of closure
  • Administrators and support staff will be casualised, put on short-term contracts, and denied a living wage.
  • Transparency-drives will mean over-regulation and homogenisation
  • Students will be seen as consumers rather than participants in a university community

Mark Bergfeld, NUS executive, says:

‘Not only are the Tories responsible for the anarchy of the market in Higher Education, they are also responsible for the protests in the streets, the strikes in the schools and occupations of our universities. They have not given students and workers any other option than to resist!’

The H.E. White Paper is part of the government’s plan to erode social justice and equality and the Education Activist Network calls on members to support strike action on 30 June.

Nick Grant, from NUT Ealing, says: ‘This strike is reaching all parts of the education system that unions don’t normally. Academies, other independent and private schools, even those in David Cameron’s own constituency, will be hit by our strike.’

Richard McEwan, from Tower Hamlets UCU, says ‘This generation can expect to be worse off than their parents […] 30 years of the market have failed us; we need an alternative. The 30th June could be the start.’



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