Socialist Worker

The worst bits of the Tories’ education white paper

Issue No. 2277

The Tories and their Lib Dem lackeys want to sell off our education.

Huge resistance to the government’s £9,000 fees and the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance last year forced them onto the back foot.

But they’re still trying to push through more attacks in a new white paper. Taken together, it amounts to the biggest assault on universities in a decade.

Here, Siân Ruddick looks at the five nastiest bits of the government’s plans.

  1. Just six years from now, the amount students have to pay back in student loans will rise by a staggering £70 billion.

    Some £3 billion will be cut from state teaching grants. The shortfall will be made back from students taking out even bigger loans.

    Interest on the loans will rise too. The poorest will end up paying back much more as their interest stacks up.

  2. The white paper pledges to “make it easier for new providers to enter the sector”. This means making students into “customers” for private firms.

    The privateers will be able to circle “failing” universities like sharks, buy them up and pump out two-year courses at knock-down prices.

    Students, meanwhile, will be left with mountains of debt, near-worthless degrees, and few job opportunities.

  3. Universities will be scored not on their teaching, but on student feedback and how much time academics spend with them, among other things.

    Jim Wolfreys is a lecturer at King’s College London, and author of a new pamphlet on the white paper, Universities for Hire.

    He says this will “produce a climate of fear and centralised monitoring”.

    And it will drive universities to brand themselves even further as products, outselling the college next door on one score or another.

  4. Students with the highest grades will be taken out of the existing system and put into a separate, “elite” market.

    Students who get at least two As and a B in their A‑levels won’t be covered by the existing cap on numbers.

    Universities they want to go to will expand.

    Last year, almost a third of students who reached these grades were in private schools—even though private schools only educate 6 percent of children.

  5. Universities will only run “profitable” courses. This is already happening in many places.

    At London Metropolitan University, just 160 courses are left out of 577. Subjects scrapped include history, philosophy and rare courses like trade union studies.

    Most of what’s left is narrow and business-friendly.

    This is the government’s vision for universities everywhere.

Universities for Hire
An Education Activist Network briefing by Jim Wolfreys
One copy for £1, six for £5, 15 for £10


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Article information

Features
Tue 8 Nov 2011, 18:05 GMT
Issue No. 2277
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