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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 May 2020


Universities' 2.5 billion funding 'black hole'

Pay full fees for virtual courses? - No way!

photo Naomi Byron

photo Naomi Byron   (Click to enlarge)

Bea Gardner, Southampton University and College Union (personal capacity)

The higher education sector faces a massive 2.5 billion funding 'black hole' which could see thousands of job losses if the government does not step in.

A recent report by London Economics, for the University and College Union (UCU), warned that 111,000 fewer UK and 121,000 fewer international first-year students will attend courses in September, resulting in billions of lost tuition fees income.

The report estimates 30,000 university jobs at risk, with a further 32,000 jobs under threat throughout the supply chain.

Not included in the report was the current losses for the sector from activities like summer conferences and accommodation. The Office for Budget Responsibility has predicted a 90% reduction in education output this quarter alone; a greater loss than any other sector.

Yet, despite mounting pressure to provide financial help, the treasury has this week confirmed it will not give any new money to the sector. Instead, the government has announced it will allow universities to continue to charge full tuition fees, even if the campuses remain closed and teaching is delivered online.

In reality, this means passing the cost of the crisis on to students who already pay extortionate fees which saddle them with a lifetime of debt.

The announcement means students starting in September could be paying 9,250 a year for remote courses, thrown together in a matter of weeks, without the physical resources like library books.

The quality of education has already been eroded by more than a decade of marketisation, slashing quality and workers' conditions, to increase profits. Now, students are expected to continue to pay outrageous fees for even further reduced quality of education.

In comparison, the Open University, which delivers all its degree courses online, recently announced it spent two years developing a new online course.

The likelihood is this announcement will push more students to defer their place until it is safe for them to physically attend, causing an even greater financial impact for universities.

The universities are playing a leading role in Covid-19 research. If universities were nationalised and run as a public service, not a business, then a fluctuation in student numbers would not be an issue. If democratically run by staff and students, universities could focus on excellent research, teaching and collaboration rather than competition and vanity projects.

But even if the government continues to refuse financial help, the universities have reserves and other assets they could use. Some universities have announced they will continue with expensive new buildings while slashing staff numbers.

The UCU must now mount a determined and co-ordinated campaign, including strike action if necessary, to protect jobs.

Meanwhile, students should not pay the cost of the higher education crisis. They should join with UCU activists and Socialist Students to campaign for universities to be run democratically by staff and students under public ownership.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

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The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 5 May 2020:

What we think

Bosses push to lift lockdown - they only care about profits

Coronavirus news

Dispatches from the NHS front

Bail out the real wealth creators, not the rich

Homes needed to end overcrowding

Homeless left on streets during pandemic

Pay full fees for virtual courses? - No way!


Your donations can keep the Socialist going

Test and trace

Test and trace: workers need a real plan

Tories using pandemic to shift lab testing out of NHS

Workplace news

Nationalise British Airways to stop 12,000 redundancies

Postal workers force Royal Mail back

No increase in transport capacity without adequate safety precautions for workers and passengers

Unsafe Workplace? "It's up to you" PCS tells reps and members

Further protests in Ireland against Debenhams closures - UK fightback needed

Rolls Royce threatens 8,000 job losses

EDF Energy workers furloughed on 100% pay

International news

India: Fighting the curse of capitalism and coronavirus

US: Trump's public health cuts have condemned thousands worldwide

Trump puts profit before safety (again)

Lessons from history

The Tyneside apprentices' strike during WW2


Peter Hadden remembered

Readers' opinion

Going viral: Socialist comments and letters on the corona crisis

TV Review BBC Panorama: PPE shortage - how many lives will be lost?


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Related links:

Higher Education:

triangleUniversity workers ballot for action against in-person teaching

triangleStudents speak out: isolation and uncertainty reign

triangle"It's not fair" - lockdown students demand free education

triangleReject the university employers' offer on pay, workload and casualisation

triangleStudents and workers out together on Budget Day, 11 March


triangleSolidarity with Manchester students - fight for democratic control of campus safety

triangleMaybe now they will listen - Refund the fees!

triangleBirmingham: 'Refund our fees' protests

triangleFight for your future at the online rally


triangleNHS: Underfunded, understaffed, underpaid

triangleFast fashion, big profits, low pay

trianglePay freeze protest Homerton Hospital


triangleRent strikers' victory in student halls


Solidarity with Brighton UCU strike - we won't pay for Covid crisis


triangleManchester student occupation - end rip-off rent, free education now


triangleHackney: Stop plan to halve school support staff!


triangleStrike action ballot at UEL over job cuts

Socialist Students:

triangleWales exams scrapped: What's behind the headline?

Tuition Fees:

triangleStudents: Give us our money back

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