Evidence? What evidence?

September 24, 2009

According to Phil Baty (Leader, 17 September), now is the time for the higher education sector to unite to make its case for enhanced public investment. He says: "It is obvious that we have a strong evidence-based case for investment, not cuts." What nonsense.

What evidence is there that low-income families are willing to pay more taxes to subsidise students from middle-class families while they train to become lawyers, doctors and City bankers? What evidence is there that £1 spent on higher education will generate more income and employment than £1 spent in the local community?

Statements that universities generate 2.3 per cent of the UK's gross domestic product and employ 1 per cent of its workforce do not support any kind of public subsidy. If they did, every other sector of the economy would be justified in making similar claims.

Finally, if Steve Smith, president of Universities UK, wants hard-working taxpayers to hand over even more of their money to bail out universities, he should get out on the streets and plead to them directly. However, I would recommend that he take bodyguards with him, for his safe return would not be guaranteed.

James B. Stanfield, School of Education, Newcastle University.

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