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Tory Expenditure Plans Generate Criticism

Jan 07 2009 19:29
Kirsty Patterson
Vice-Chancellors have criticised Conservative proposals to reduce Government spending in Higher Education during the economic crisis.
Professor Les Ebdon, Vice Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire.

Vice-Chancellors have spoken out against Conservative plans to curb government spending in the public sector, proposing a sub-inflation growth in all departments except schools, health, defence and international development. Critics argue that the cut-backs, meaning only a 1% increase in spending, would threaten student numbers and University funding at a time when investing in Higher Education could help combat the economic difficulties presented by a recession.

Vice Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire and Imperial College Alumnus, Professor Les Ebdon, has spoken out against the proposals saying:

"There are several hundred thousand people who are available for higher education who weren't before, and will be looking to retrain now jobs are scarce.

"Of all the counter-cyclical investments, higher education really pays off. You save on job seekers' allowances and social security payments and train people for a new economy. It's not the time to be cutting back in universities."

It is deeply disappointing that the opposition is resiling on its previous commitment to widen participation, and clearly has not appreciated the contribution of universities to the economy and the lifelong learning agenda.
Professor Ebdon criticising the change in poilicy

Professor Ebdon is also concerned that the proposed expenditure, along with the restriction placed on the increase in student numbers for the next academic year after the Government miscalculated the number of students who would be eligible for financial support, will prevent students from under privileged backgrounds from entering the higher education system. The growth in student numbers for academic year 09-10 is limited to only 10,000 new places despite a record numbers of applicants expected due to the widening participation agenda and the lack of jobs available. £100m funding cuts to be made over three years in Equivalent or Lower Qualifications (ELQs) were also announced in December 2007 and are disproportionately affecting part time students and those who wish to retrain during the current economic downturn.

Conservative leader, David Cameron, said of the plans: "We need to make a really big change in Britain from an economy built on debt to an economy built on savings. A culture of thrift at the heart of government and a culture of saving at the heart of our economy - these changes will provide strong foundations for the new economy we plan to build."

This comes as Secretary of State for Higher Education, John Denham, is advising Universities to support the economy by ensuring they pay their suppliers on time and by accelerating plans for capital-expenditure projects. Imperial is already one step ahead of Mr Denham with work on the South East Quadrant Project, which will see the redevelopment of Mechanical and Civil Engineering over the next seven years, getting under way this week.

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Discussion about “Tory Expenditure Plans Generate Criticism”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Jan 07 2009 19:35

Apologies, there seems to be something up with the photo for this article. Trying to get it fixed but it is displaying correctly in the backend and in my folder so I'm at a bit of a loss...

Jan 07 2009 19:46

Fixed now. :o)

3. Huh?   
Jan 07 2009 20:14

How exactly do they plan to cap the growth in the number of students entering higher education? Imperial were massively over subscribed this year when too many applicants met the entry requirements. There's not much you can do to stop an increase in numbers when everyone gets 3 As or more. Unless they bring forward changes in the application process so that next years cohort apply to University after exam results have been released I see no way in which that can be enforced.

Jan 07 2009 21:45

Higher education is being used as a way to hide unemployment. Rather than working 47 years (18-65) people work only 44 (21-65), meaning that there are less people in the workforce. It works to an extent, but it means that the economy is not as strong as it should be. With all due respect to people, are so called Mickey Mouse courses really going to help us out of this recession? We need a larger percentage of the adult population working in real jobs, rather than having the figures hid in higher education and state non jobs.

Also, I believe that encouraging more people to take on massive amounts of student debt is the last thing that should be happening now.

Jan 08 2009 10:06

It is disgusting that during a recession a representative of a part of the HE Sector that is little more than a non-job creation scheme for some of the most feckless, underproductive parts of the UK is trying to ringfence his highly questionable entitlement to money that could be more efficiently spent elsewhere.

Hopefully the current debt crisis will make school leavers of average ability think twice about making a sub-prime investment in a Mickey Mouse course offered by the "universities" that Prof. Ebdon represents.

Jan 08 2009 11:01

I'd be worried that the current job market will have the opposite affect on School leavers. Where will all the kids destined to take on roles in Woolies go now all the shops are shutting down? I wouldn't be surprised if places like WHSmiths and Superdrug were not going to follow quite quickly behind. And workers made unemployed by the likes of the Lehmann Brothers will already have taken all the in-between jobs or be similarly turning to Higher Education to bridge the gap for a couple of years. Only option will be to take on a course in something fairly laughable at a backwater university and hopefully ride out the recession or go on the dole. Which seems to be what Prof Lebdon is suggesting. Not going to happen, it's so short sighted.

Also, restricting growth in university places is a great idea but it will only work if done properly. If it hasn't been thought through properly then all you will get is a large cohort of students deferring entry and, as they already have their results, getting unconditional offers for next year. Meaning that if the growth is still capped then students leaving school for entry in 2010 will have to defer and so on and so forth. There will be a boom somewhere along the line. Again, so very short sighted. Possibly how we got into this financial mess in the first place, noone thinks far enough ahead.

Jan 08 2009 12:28

If there's one thing that teaches you to be thrifty its being a student!

But seriously now, unless the cuts are going to be coming out of departments that deal with "Mickey Mouse courses" this is not the best of choices, universities are already badly underfunded.

Jan 08 2009 14:35

Roly poly - you are quite clearly an idiot who knows nothing about universities, and quite probably the world at large, outside the confines of your own department

Jan 08 2009 16:57

All I know is that I am building up a lot of debt because a bunch of morons think they are entitled to a "university experience". Shut down the c**p Uni's and fund the good ones properly. It's hardly a big ask.

Jan 09 2009 17:31


See Tim Harford on the amount of life people spend working:

@Department of Thrift

Of course Universities are chronically underfunded. There are two reasons for this:

1)Everyone always thinks that their section of society is underfunded. Even Bill Gates probably complains about the lack of money going into software development.

2)They're state funded. Everything that is state funded/subsidized is also chronically underfunded, because of bureaucratic overheads, unrealistic expectations and overdemand. Not to mention that the more successful state enterprises tend to be used as a funding source for political pet projects.

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