This article is being distributed at today’s national lobby of parliament to defend education and jobs, organised by the University College Union.
Following spending reductions in December totalling £398 million for 2010-11, it is estimated that total education cuts over the next three years in Britain will be around £900 million. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the cuts may reach £2.5 billion.
The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has announced significant cuts in the funding of science in the UK. The STFC funds science projects, including the allocation of university research grants.
Space missions and projects across astronomy, nuclear and particle physics will all face the brunt of a cut of £115 million. The inroads into physics and astronomy research are particularly wide-ranging.
Space projects are to be slashed by £42 million and astronomy projects by £39 million. A cut of £32 million is being made to particle physics projects, and nuclear physics projects will face a cut of £12 million. The STFC plans to implement a further £11 million in internal cost-cutting.
Lord Peter Mandelson, the secretary of state for Business, Innovation & Skills announced massive cuts in university funding just before the new year.
In a letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), cuts totalling £398 million for 2010-11 were outlined. The figure exceeds by £135 million the £180 million cuts and £83 million in “efficiency savings” announced in the 2009 budget. This was to cover “additional pressures, in particular the higher than expected costs of student support during the economic downturn,” said Mandelson. An £84 million cut has been made in the capital funds allotted to universities for improvements in buildings and infrastructure. Overall some £50 million is being slashed from teaching budgets during the next year. The cuts total 6.6 percent of the Higher Education budget.
In the last weeks, hundreds of job losses and department closures have been announced at universities and colleges in Britain as the direct result of government funding cuts. The losses come as a secret government plan was leaked to the Observer, revealing that up to 133,000 Further Education (FE) student training places will be lost in 2010-2011. The imposition of pay freezes and further job losses are also being considered at FE colleges nationally.
The cuts are planned as official unemployment among young people rapidly approaches 1 million. The document, dated October 12 and marked, “Protected—Funding Policy,” proposes to impose £350 million cuts in spending for the provision of FE training places for 2010-2011. Some £100 million cuts will be made in administration with a further £252 million cut from programmes such as Train to Gain, Adult Apprentices and Skills for Life.
Up to 300 students and staff protested last Thursday against proposed cuts at the University of Sussex, Brighton, England. Protesters marched across the campus to a rally outside a meeting of the University of Sussex’s management body. Following the rally, most of the protesters entered Bramber House, where the Senate meeting was being held. The university administration then called the police. The demonstrators left the building, and mounted a smaller demonstration outside.
This was the second rally since last week’s announcement by Vice Chancellor Professor Michael Farthing that 115 jobs were to be axed, and academic and support services slashed, in a bid to cut £5 million for 2010-11 from the university’s £160 million budget. This follows a reduction of £3 million for 2009-10. Farthing himself earns £227,000 annually and the combined annual salaries of the top 20 managers at the university exceed £2.6 million.
On Saturday November 21 up to 150 parents, pupils, staff and supporters from Abbeydale Grange School in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England marched to oppose its proposed closure.
The march was called by the FLAGS parent-teacher organisation (Forging Links with Abbeydale Grange). A number of speakers addressed the rally, including the prospective Labour Party and Green Party candidates for Sheffield Central for the 2010 General Election; Paula Hunter, a parent with a Year Eight special needs child at the school; David Smith, the interim head teacher, and Professor John Coldron, the chair of the school governors.
Colleen Smith, a learning mentor and leading member of the Socialist Equality Party, spoke at the protest, as did the school’s community liaison manager and senior teacher, Ibrar Hussain. (See accompanying video)
A World Socialist Web Site reporting team spoke to a number of those on the demonstration to oppose the closure of Abbeydale Grange school in Sheffield on November 21.
Dean Morton is a parent of a pupil at the school. He said, “I’ve got a child at the school in year seven. If the school closes it will be the saddest day in Sheffield’s history. He has to get a bus and tram into the school as he comes from the other side of the city.
When the Labour government was elected in 1997, Prime Minister Tony Blair promised that a central plank of its policies would be “education, education, education”.
This was an issue of great concern to millions, as educational standards in Britain were woefully poor. Schools had been chronically neglected and under-funded, as Conservative governments under Margaret Thatcher and then John Major conducted a fierce assault on the state education system.
Spearheaded by an ideological attack on “trendy”, “progressive” and “leftist” teaching methods, a major restructuring was undertaken of the comprehensive education system to open it up to private capital and destroy the supervisory power of Local Education Authorities.
Thousands of job cuts are being implemented at higher and further education institutions throughout the UK. Many departments are also being slashed or closed. This onslaught is the result of funding shortfalls due to central government budget cuts. Many universities imposing the cuts are already millions of pounds in debt.
In June, the University College Union (UCU) compiled a list of almost 6,000 threatened job losses nationally. Then, 45 universities were attempting to impose job cuts and a further 99 planned to implement jobs cuts soon. The survey also found that 55 colleges were also in the process of cutting jobs.
More than a third of job cuts are being carried out in London, with over 2,000 threatened. Nearly 1,000 were at risk in Yorkshire and Humberside, with institutions in both the West Midlands and Northern Ireland seeking to cut more than 400 jobs. In Wales nearly 400 jobs are under threat.