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 "wouldnt 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
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.