The news for British universities are particularly bad as of late. Higher education will suffer major budget cuts under a recent spending review released by the British government. Excluding research support, which will remain flat, the amount of money going to higher education in England will decline by 40 percent over the next four years, from 7.1 billion pounds (about $11-billion) to 4.2 billion pounds (about $6.6-billion).
The research budget will be frozen at 4.6 billion pounds (about $7.3-billion), “to ensure the UK remains a world leader in science and research”. The government will continue to pay for teaching in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
In other words, the government is implying that history, economics, business, psychology, philosophy, literature, foreign languages and other aspects of the social sciences and humanities represent a useless waste of public funding.
Adding hardship to insult, the government plans to allow universities to raise tuition beginning in 2012. Tuition at some British universities could soon increase to as much as £9,000, or $14,430, nearly tripling the rate at some institutions.
The organization that represents Britain’s university vice chancellors praised its support of substantial tuition increases as necessary for higher education’s survival, while professors and students decried what they called the death of the public university in Britain.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
Although this is indeed alarming, there is more to the story.
Cambridge and Oxford will continue doing well. The UK seems to think elite universities is the way to go and that there are too many new universities offering degrees that are not comparable, but consuming great resources. I do not think this is entirely unreasonable.
The same problem arises in Canada. Unless the country is prepared to increase funds to the top 4 universities in Canada then these will never be able to compete with the likes of Stanford, MIT, Princeton, etc. It’s ironical that it’s so much harder to get a job in Toronto, but that once you get it, you don’t have access to more money! NSERC is also spending too much money in grants that are not peer-reviewed. If you combine too many universities, with no proper peer reviewing, and the bureaucrats deciding who gets the money (often friends), then we’re still worse off than the UK despite the shocking news.