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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 June 2017

Open University facing huge cuts

Fight for free education

Socialist Students marching for free education, 2016, photo Isai Priya

Socialist Students marching for free education, 2016, photo Isai Priya   (Click to enlarge)

Caroline Vincent, Leicester Socialist Party

The Open University has announced a technological overhaul, which will involve making 100 million of cuts, nearly a quarter of its 425 million budget. The consequences of this 'streamlining' will inevitably be job losses, and the closure of courses that are not considered profitable enough.

This is despite significant fee hikes. A module which would have cost 700 in 2012 now costs 2,864! The result of such prohibitively high fees has been a drop in the number of part-time students, which has fallen by a third since 2010.

A vicious cycle is now occurring, where the fall in student numbers is being used as an excuse to make cuts and axe jobs, which in turn results in reduced access to education for adult learners.

In justifying these 'savings' Peter Horrocks, the vice chancellor (who commands an annual salary of 235,000), claimed: "We were disruptive and revolutionary in our use of technology in 1969 and, as we approach our 50th year, we intend to be disruptive and revolutionary again..."! It certainly will be disruptive; to the staff who face uncertainty for their jobs, and to students whose subjects may be culled.

Jeremy Corbyn pledged to make education free. When interviewed by NME magazine he said: "The Open University is the most incredible institution we have, one of the best in this country. I think it's absolutely fantastic and I want to properly fund the Open University as I want to make sure that other adult education colleges are properly funded."

The prospect of accumulating crippling debt is a big deterrent for working class people wishing to continue studying beyond school. Jeremy Corbyn is right that education should be free and accessible for everybody, regardless of age and background - not just for the privileged few.

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In The Socialist 21 June 2017:


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