Despite the cut-backs in Higher Education in the UK, members of staff in top tier institutions feel fairly secure in their employment. Job losses as a result of a decline in student numbers will affect colleagues in Further Education institutions as well as Universities further down in the ranking order it is often thought. This may well turn out to be a dangerous illusion.
Universities in the top tier in the UK, Oxbridge and the so-called Russel Group Universities, are generally expected to introduce the maximum possible amount of tuition fees of £9000 per year. This is supposed to make up for the cut in government teaching payments to Universities of 80 per cent. What is not discussed, however, is the fact that the impact of £9000 per year tuition fees may vary across different departments of one and the same University. Engineering Departments and other areas, which are credited with teaching directly relevant skills, may well be able to continue recruiting a similar amount of students despite the higher fees. Arts and Humanities, but potentially also Social Sciences disciplines, all described in government fueled discourses as teaching less employment relevant skills, may fare differently. What would happen, if in a top tier University the History Department, for example, suddenly recruited 25 per cent fewer students due to the higher fee levels? It is not far-fetched to imagine that the University in question would then turn round to this particular Department and ask for a corresponding reduction in the number of members of staff. In short, job losses are not unlikely at top tier Universities either and members of staff at these Universities will find it in their interest to fight together with colleagues from other institutions against the cuts to Higher Education in the forthcoming industrial action.
No part of Higher Education will remain unaffected as a result of the cuts and it is now the time to resist government restructuring efforts. UCU, organising staff across Further and Higher Education institutions in the UK have announced the following timetable for strikes:
17 March - Scotland: HE USS
18 March - Wales: HE USS
21 March - Northern Ireland: HE USS
22 March - England: HE USS
24 March - UK-wide: HE USS, HE & FE TPS, HE pay, FE pay
The strikes will culminate in a large demonstration in London on 26 March 2011.
Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK
Personal website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/~ldzab
16 March 2011