BPP, a private company that possesses 14 sites around the UK providing law and business degrees, was granted “university college” status in July, creating the first private university in the UK for 30 years. The decision signals the coalition government’s drive to privatise higher education.
Massive spending cuts brought forward by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government, combined with rising youth unemployment, has seen 200,000 students denied a university place this year. It is in this context that calls have been made to privatise higher education.
Until now university college status has been typically reserved for publicly owned institutions that provide a limited range of degrees and qualifications. Before the BPP granting, the University of Buckingham has been the only official private university in the UK, which was granted degree-awarding powers in 1983.
On July 5, Conservative Party Education Secretary Michael Gove announced the cancellation of the previous Labour government’s £55 billion school building programme. Hundreds of secondary and primary schools promised new buildings and refurbishments have seen their hopes dashed.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition has suspended projects for 715 new schools and a further 123 academies will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
On May 28, the principal of the University of Glasgow, Anton Muscatelli, briefed students on the strategic priorities and direction of the university in the face of the global economic crisis.
Muscatelli’s briefing was organised in response to recent protests over the announcement of 80 jobs to be cut across the Faculty of Education, the Faculty of Biomedical and Life Sciences (FBLS) and the closure of the Archaeological Research Division. On May 19, as part of the Student Representative Council led “Don’t Kill Science!” campaign to oppose cuts to the FBLS, 200 students and staff held a demonstration and handed a petition of 2,118 signatures to the principal. On the same day, more than 300 lecturers joined an emergency meeting and voted unanimously to ballot for industrial action.
The Conservative-Liberal government has begun fast tracking an Academies Bill through Parliament. Together with an Education and Children’s Bill in the autumn, the new arrangements will lay the basis for a market-driven, competitive system of schools, free from Local Authority control and increasingly run by the private sector.
Such a system presages a severe deterioration in teachers’ pay and conditions and the creation of profoundly unequal education for Britain’s children.
The Academies Bill, which is set to become law this summer, will allow a planned 500 secondary and 1,700 primary schools to apply for academy status for September and leave Local Authority control. For the first time, primary schools will be able to apply to become academies.
Around 200 students and staff protested at the Hendon campus, Middlesex University, on May 27 against the suspension of professors and students campaigning to save the Philosophy Department.
Three professors and four students were suspended on May 21, after a second occupation had ended, this time of the library on Trent Park campus. Around 50 students and staff from the School of Arts and Education participated in the one-day sit-in. The occupation occurred despite a High Court Injunction imposed after the previous occupation of the Mansion building. Additional security guards and police were called, but no action was taken as the injunction only applied to the Mansion House.
Middlesex University authorities have closed down a 12-day-long occupation of the Mansion Building by students on the Trent Park campus. The students have been demanding the university’s internationally renowned philosophy department is kept open. The occupation was ended May 15, after a High Court injunction was obtained.
The closure of the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy department was part of the previous Labour government’s first set of cuts to education budgets, amounting to £500 million. The management of educational institutions across Britain began forcing workers and students to shoulder the burden through pay and job cuts, the closure of whole departments and even entire institutions.
Recent reports have warned that Scottish universities will lose up to 20 percent of the £1.12 billion they currently receive in public funding. The Scottish Funding Council intimated that funding for Scotland’s 20 universities would fall by 0.6 percent in 2010-2011, and by at least 3.2 percent in each of the following three academic years.
Across Britain some 7,000 education jobs are estimated to be under threat this summer alone.
In Scotland, huge public spending cuts are already being set in motion. Professor David Bell, adviser to the Scottish Financial Committee, has forecast cuts of 20 percent. The chief economic adviser to the Scottish government, Dr. Andrew Goudie, has indicated that the future of free universal benefits such as paid tuition fees, prescriptions, eye tests and school meals must all be considered as legitimate targets for cost saving.
This is the conclusion of a three-part series on the extent of the privatisation of state education under the Labour government. Part 1 was published March 26, and part 2 was posted March 27.
Not one of Labour’s policies towards education have been the result of demands from the broad mass of the population. They have come from big business.
Labour deepened its relations with business and the financial consultancy sector in the 1990s, as it sought to transform itself into “an electable party” by acquiring a “more business like image”. Removing itself from any semblance of control by the working class that once formed its major constituency, it became increasingly dependent upon big business for finances and political support, in return for knighthoods, seats in the House of Lords and greater encroachment into the public sector.
This is the second of a three-part series on the extent of the privatisation of state education under the Labour government. Part 1 was published March 26.
Labour has done everything possible to turn schools over to business, legitimising it as a means of helping deprived areas. First, it established statutory Education Action Zones (EAZs), a corporate body with charitable status run by a forum of “partners”, preferably from the private sector to bring in private as well as public funds. It would bid for funding to run other educational services and would be free to change teachers’ pay and conditions. But the EAZs, unable to attract much private funding, were very dependent upon the Local Education Authorities they were meant to supersede and were closed in 2005, amid concern about financial irregularities.
This is the first of a three-part series on the extent of the privatisation of state education under the Labour government. Part 2 was published March 27.
Labour came to power in 1997 with the mantra of “education, education, education”. Since then its educational reforms have been aimed, not at providing a broad education for children and students and developing their talents, but at opening up education to private profit. Labour has tailored the education of children to the needs of British employers for a low-wage and largely unskilled workforce, and positioning the British economy in the highly profitable market for services as manufacturing continues to decline.
All aspects of education, from preschool through to higher education, are now dominated by the “market” and the corporate ethos. The result has been the deterioration in the quality of education, whose daily experience for children and staff alike is often abysmal.