Year 2000 No. 45, March 10, 2000

Funding Cuts and a "Two-Tier" Education System

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Funding Cuts and a "Two-Tier" Education System

For Your Reference:
Figures for the Funding of Higher Education

Education NEWS IN BRIEF:
Loans Deter Students
NUS Calls on Universities to Reject Top-Up Fees
Russell Group Backs £6,000 Per Annum Tuition Fees
Downing Street Backs Russell Group
Jack Straw Banned from Old Student Union
Students Not Able to Pay £3.5 million in Fees

British Government Recalls High Commissioner from Zimbabwe

Deutsche and Dresdner Merger Threatens Big Job Cuts

INTERNATIONAL NEWS IN BRIEF
Palestine:
Kosova
China and the WTO
Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Funding Cuts and a "Two-Tier" Education System

Universities are having to cope with a cut in government funding. This could mean that some are unable to recruit or reward their staff. This has been the conclusion of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, as it published its grant allocations to 133 English institutions on March 2. As the universities suffer this funding cut, so the 20 universities of the "Russell Group", which includes Oxford and Cambridge, are calling for powers to charge extra tuition fees, the so-called "top-up" fees, pointing out that if they do not do so, the standards of education will not be maintained.

It is thought that the government is sympathetic to this proposal, and indeed to be encouraging it by its history of axing grants, introducing tuition fees paid by students through loans, and cutting government funding to higher educational institutions. This is despite the words of Education Secretary David Blunkett, who promised no top-up fees as long as he held the post, but indicated that he "wouldn’t be Education Secretary for ever". Therefore, the speculation is that there will be fundamental reform of funding in the next Parliament. It would cost a further £4 billion to restore government funding to the levels that universities enjoyed in 1970, and there is said to be no question of the government moving in that direction whatsoever.

These moves further open higher educational funding to "market forces". Bursaries would be raised largely from fee income, giving an estimated figure for £10,000 per annum to be paid in the "top-up" fees on average.

In the debate, "who should pay?", it should be pointed out that in this "two-tier" education system, it is the rich who control the monopoly capitalist concerns who benefit in every way.

Firstly, the government is cutting its funding in education, which ought to be its social responsibility if it truly were the representative of the whole of society. This is a component part of its cut-backs in spending on social programmes and ensures that it has more funds available to hand straight to the rich in interest payment on government debt, hand-outs to the monopolies, spending on military programmes and such-like.

Secondly, the "elite" for whom the top-up fees are necessary will neither be funded by the government nor the capitalists directly, but by the families of the students and the students themselves, as a rule, if the envisaged plans to ahead. This is a further development of the situation where the monopolies do not have to pay for the training and education of those skills and learning which they ask of the skilled and educated staff they require. This further reduces their costs and directly increases their profits. With courses geared to these needs as market forces operate, it also increases their ability to compete in the global marketplace. The gearing of the education of "elites" further detracts from the provision of an-all round education system which trains people as human beings, to care for the future of society, and to take up social responsibility.

Thirdly, the mass of the students who do not attend one of the "premier league" universities will receive a second division league education, which is to say that their education will be tailored to what is required for the mass of jobs which the monopolies offer, or even no job at all, as part of the reserve army of the unemployed. This would not only have the effect of further driving down the level of wages and salaries overall, but serves the need of the rich for a workforce who are trained in accepting the "social partnership" between workers and employees. In other words, this also is a violation of the principle of providing an all-round education to all without discrimination, and is being carried out as the anti-social offensive increases entirely in line with what the rich are demanding in the conditions of the deepening crisis.

It is no accident or mere coincidence that the mass of students is faced with fighting against this onslaught against their educational provision right at this time. They must fight against this onslaught on the basis of the principle that education is a right and not a privilege, and that higher education should be available at the highest standard to all without discrimination as to who can pay or any other basis. They must demand that education fulfil the all-round needs of the students and not on the requirements of the monopolies who are seeking to put every aspect of society at the service of their competitive success in the global market. In so doing, youth and students, as well as all those involved in higher education, the lecturers and staff, must see that these problems are inseparably connected with the direction in which society is heading, and work to open the door to a society in which education has the aim of shaping cultured human beings who can make their contribution to the all-round development of society and its humanisation.

Article Index


For Your Reference:

Figures for the Funding of Higher Education

There will be a real-terms reduction in government funding for the next academic year. English universities will receive £4.38 billion, which is a rise that is 1% below the inflation rate of 2.5%. This is despite of an expected £749 million from student tuition fees in 2000-01. Universities are at present allowed to charge students no more than £1,025 a year.

For individual universities, the allocations, which are decided by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, range from a 5.2% increase in real-terms for the University of Bath to a 13.8% cut for Thames Valley University.

Tony Blair has promised that there will be an extra 700,000 places in further and higher education by 2002, of which about 100,000 will be in universities. The funding announced on March 2 is estimated to add a further 37,000 student places.

More than half of the income from tuition fees will be paid by the Treasury, in subsidies to those students from poor families. Actual fee income from students is calculated to increase by £100 million to £336 million. Students have to take out loans to pay these fees, which they then have to pay back after graduation.

Article Index


Education NEWS IN BRIEF

Loans Deter Students

A report from the Policy Studies Research Centre of the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside, reveals that student loans are deterring young people from poorer families from applying for higher educational institutions.

This research comes at a time when the Russell Group of universities are considering the introduction of top-up fees after the next election. Student leaders from the Russell Group of universities pledged to take their campaign against top-up fees into schools and warn parents. More than half of the youth from working class backgrounds said they were less likely to apply to university because of fees and loans, and nearly 80 per cent said they felt this had limited their choice of where to study.

NUS Calls on Universities to Reject Top-Up Fees

The National Union of Students is calling on universities to commit themselves to rejecting any attempts to introduce "top-up" fees. The NUS is saying that universities should rather commit themselves to a system based on "equality, not elitism".

Russell Group Backs £6,000 Per Annum Tuition Fees

Vice chancellors of the 20 universities in Britain who comprise the Russell Group meeting on February 25 at the University of Warwick agreed to commission an investigation into "top-up" fees. They estimate it could lead to up to £6,000 per annum tuition fees. Other estimates put this figure at up to ten times more, giving the example of subjects like medicine, where a fee of £60,000 could be needed.

The vice chancellors agreed to ask a group of four economists to look at future funding options for universities – including an option to charge whatever fees they choose and a voucher scheme under which all students are given an amount to spend at the university of their choice, provided they are prepared to pay the extra fees.

Professor Colin Campbell, vice chancellor of Nottingham University, whose paper prompted the decision, said, "I am very pleased. There is recognition in the group about the vital importance to our best universities of being able to compete with the best in the world."

Andrew Pakes, NUS National President, made the statement: "Some of these vice chancellors, like Campbell, are pernicious. He wants a kind of social engineering, with only a certain type of student going to his university."

Downing Street Backs Russell Group

A report in the Times Higher Education Supplement suggests that political commentators confirm that Downing Street and the Treasury are happy about the debate on the future funding of higher education in Britain. It says that a flexible fees system could well fit in with the government’s efforts to cut back on public spending by encouraging more public/private partnership arrangements.

Jack Straw Banned from Old Student Union

Last month, more than 600 students attended Leeds University’s Student Union AGM and voted to ban Jack Straw in protest at his "anti-libertarian" policies. Jack Straw was a former president of the union. The AGM decided to revoke his honorary life membership of the union and to lobby the university to overturn his honorary degree. A Labour Party spokesperson described the motion as a "puerile gesture".

Students Not Able to Pay £3.5 million in Fees

Universities face having to write off up to £3.5 million in unpaid fees according to figures produced in a survey by the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals. The CVCP say students paid £146.5 million of the £150 million due in the academic year 1998-99. Theresa May, the Conservative Party education spokesperson, commented: "The fact that thousands of students have not been paying their fees shows the real problems many of them are facing." Under the payment scheme for fees, universities can decide on what action, if any, to take against those who fail to pay.

Article Index


British Government Recalls High Commissioner from Zimbabwe

In the latest incident of the government’s campaign against Zimbabwe, it has been announced that Britain’s High Commissioner will be recalled from Harare. The Foreign Office Minister for Africa, Peter Hain, who spoke of "a grave breach of the Vienna Convention", also announced that he had summoned the Zimbabwean High Commissioner to Britain to explain why Zimbabwean customs officials opened diplomatic bags containing 6.5 tonnes of what were at first called by High Commission officials computers and which Hain has now referred to as "protective screening equipment for communications as well as the tools for its installation". Hain added that this is "routine equipment at our diplomatic missions all around the world", but if this were the case why has the government blown the matter up into a major diplomatic incident?

Amongst other things, the British government’s action against Zimbabwe is linked to that country’s attempts to get Britain, the former colonial power, to pay compensation to wealthy farmers whose land the Zimbabwean government is seeking to compulsorily acquire for re-distribution. Indeed in recent weeks former liberation fighters in Zimbabwe who fought against the colonial government of the Smith regime have been occupying farm land demanding its redistribution. According to reports, the British government has been refusing to pay compensation to the farmers many of whom own land acquired by dubious means during the period of British colonial rule, but has also been putting pressure on the Zimbabwean authorities to end the occupations which are disrupting the production of tobacco and other agricultural crops for the big monopolies which still dominate the economic life of that country.

It is noteworthy that in Peter Hain’s abusive statement he arrogantly asserts that the action of Zimbabwe’s officials is "not the act of a civilised country". He refers to that country’s "paranoia" and descent into "economic chaos and increasing instability and political isolation" with out once mentioning either Britain’s role in Zimbabwe’s colonial past nor its continued interference in that country’s affairs. In fact to add insult to injury Hain actually refers to Britain as Zimbabwe’s "oldest friend" and pledges to attempt to "help the country out of its economic turmoil and to find political stability".

The British government is stepping up its interference in Zimbabwe and in the rest of Africa. In January it was explaining why it was continuing to supply arms, in the form of spare parts for Hawk warplanes, to a country that it is now calling uncivilised and unstable. The British government is behaving and speaking just as its predecessors did during the so-called "Scramble for Africa" in the 19th century, defending its intervention and interference by recourse to the notions of the "white man’s burden" and "civilising mission" on some occasions and by outright bullying and new forms of gunboat diplomacy on others. Britain’s interference in Zimbabwe, in colonial Rhodesia and throughout the entire African continent has only been for the benefit of the monopolies. The demand of all democratic people must be that such interference is brought to an end.

Article Index


Merger News:

Deutsche and Dresdner Merger Threatens Big Job Cuts

It was finally announced yesterday that the German banks Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank are the merge, with Deutsche taking over Dresdner.

The deal will cost 16,500 jobs, according to agency reports. The combined global workforce at present stands at 142,000. The banks said that the job cuts were part of a drive to save up to £1.77 billion per year. Industry sources said that about a third of the combined bank’s 3,000 branches will be closed. A representative of Deutsche Bank indicated that there may be more cuts, saying, "That’s not the end of the line."

The takeover will create the world’s largest bank in asset terms, with a balance sheet total of £758.4 billion. The deal is worth between £19.5 billion and £21.5 billion.

The banks said they would float their combined retail banking operations within three years and focus on the more profitable operations of private banking for wealthy individuals, corporate banking, investment banking and asset management.

Confirmation of the deal coincided with speculation of yet another bank merger as a report in the German newspaper Die Welt said that the HSBC banking group planned to launch a hostile bid for Commerzbank, Germany’s fourth-largest bank.

Analysts said that the deal between Deutsche and Dresdner spells upheaval in Europe’s retail banking sector, but may not be sufficient to propel Deutsche Bank AG, as the combined bank will be known, into the top league of world investment banks.

The planned merger of Industrial Bank of Japan with Fuji Bank and Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, scheduled for 2002, would form a bank with assets of about £948 billion, that would knock the new German giant off the top spot.

Article Index


INTERNATIONAL NEWS IN BRIEF

Palestine:

Following Yasser Arafat’s announcement to the Palestinian Legislative Council this week that Palestinian national independence would be declared this year, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have held talks in Egypt aimed at reviving the peace negotiations that broke down last month. Palestinian leaders have already indicated that an independent Palestinian state will be declared this September when Israel and the Palestinians are due to reach a final peace agreement. But peace talks stalled last month because of differences over the transfer of more Israeli-occupied land in the West Bank to Palestinian self-rule and accusations that Israel was reneging on previous commitments.

Kosova

This week further armed clashes were reported in the in the Kosovan town of Mitrovica. At least 40 people including 16 NATO troops were injured. The town has been the scene of repeated unrest in recent weeks resulting in several deaths and many injuries. The violence in the area shows no signs of diminishing even though there are large numbers of NATO troops present and there have been reports of numerous armed clashes along Kosova’s borders with Serbia and within Serbia itself. The recent clashes are said to be the result of renewed Serbian police attacks against the Albanian population of Serbia and the emergence of a new Kosova Liberation Army (UCPMB) in the region.

China and the WTO

President Clinton has sent legislation to the US Congress to vote China permanent normal trading rights in the US as part of an overall package for China to join the World Trade Organisation. This follows the trade agreement signed between the US and China last November which opened up many sectors of China’s economy to foreign capital. Clinton warned that failure to vote for the legislation would leave China’s 1,300 million consumer market open to European and Asian competition. Trade talks with the EU, which are also vital to China’s 14-year attempt to join the WTO, broke down last month reportedly because China refused an EU demand for a further opening up of the Chinese market for telecommunications, financial services and insurance. EU negotiators were said to be pressing for 51% foreign ownership of sectors of China’s economy, a concession that would be an increase on the agreement made with the US last year. The EU is the most important WTO member that has yet to conclude a trade deal with China.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

The head of what has been described as a UN peacekeeping force has arrived in the DR of the Congo following the UN Security Council vote last month, which authorised the deployment of a 5,500 UN force in the country made up of troops from Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan and Senegal. It is widely believed that this might be the vanguard of a much larger "peacekeeping force". The conflict in the Congo between the government of Larent Kabila and rebel forces has been dubbed by the media "Africa’s First World War" and has involved the armed forces of many of the neighbouring countries including Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia on the government side and Rwanda and Uganda backing the rebel forces. Although a ceasefire was agreed last August violations have occurred on all sides. During more recent peace talks the warring parties agreed to a UN-OAU peacekeeping force and foreign troop withdrawal.

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