An Alternative to the White Paper
Academic staff and students from across the sector and in a variety of campaigning groups – Campaign for the Public University, Oxford University Campaign for Higher Education, Sussex University Defends Higher Education, Warwick University Campaign for Higher Education, Humanities Matter, No Confidence Campaign, Cambridge Academic Campaign for Higher Education – have written a trenchant response to the Government’s White Paper.
This document, Putting Vision Back into Higher Education: A Response to the Government White Paper, is a call to colleagues to contribute to an Alternative White Paper to be published at the end of the Government’s consultation period in September. This will be presented to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, together with the weight of opinion in support. We are now asking colleagues to contact their subject associations, and other bodies, to contribute, and to join together themselves to provide evidence for an alternative. An email address is given below and we ask people to send their contributions to us for collation in an Alternative White Paper by 2 September 2011 to align with the Government’s consultation deadline of 20 September.
In the critique of the White Paper, we argue that:
- It threatens the excellence of higher education in England. It does not put the student at the ‘heart of the system’, but the market.
- It cuts direct public support for undergraduate degrees by 80%, and by transferring costs to students via higher fees it succeeds in providing fewer resources for most degrees while requiring students to pay more.
- It is a reckless gamble, a dangerous experiment in university funding with no precedent in British experience. Its different elements are incoherent.
- While the Browne Review advocated a new funding model because of uncertainty over public funding, the present proposals will not produce stability. The uncertainty is switched to the ballooning student support arrangements necessary to maintain a fee-based system of loans and the Government’s overriding interest is now to reduce their cost.
- It has parallels to the privatisation wrecking the financial solvency of high-quality public universities in the US (such as the University of California, where net private revenues have not covered the public funding lost through cuts despite upwardly spiralling tuition costs).
- It had no vision for higher education, only a narrow emphasis on employment and education as an individual investment in human capital.
- In contrast, it is necessary for higher education to “sustain a culture which demands disciplined thinking, encourages curiosity, challenges existing ideas and generates new ones; [and to] be part of the conscience of a democratic society, founded on respect for the rights of the individual and the responsibilities of the individual to society as a whole” (Dearing Report, 1997).
There is no government mandate for the privatisation of higher education and for the despoiling of the social and cultural value of universities.
Contributions for the Alternative White Paper to: altwhitepaper [AT] live.co.uk
Closing date: 2nd September 2011