Sectarianism divides

June 9, 2000

As the government's spending review has progressed, Tom Wilson of lecturers' union Natfhe has been spearheading a campaign for the redistribution of funding from old universities to new. This is false egalitarianism that will achieve, if anything, the opposite of what is intended.

Many of Britain's best universities compete globally. If they are denied adequate levels of public funding to do so effectively, they will be driven to greater reliance on private money. This will include higher fee levels, thus making many "top" universities even more socially exclusive.

This false egalitarianism will be seized on eagerly by Treasury hawks to justify further across-the-board cuts. It is a Treasury mandarin's dream come true - more for less - as Wilson asserts that the new universities have responded to underfunding by out-performing the old in terms of compliance with government objectives.

So further cuts, not redistribution, will be the order of the day if Natfhe has its way. The final twist to this false egalitarianism is that those who have least will suffer most. Higher education funding from all sources is becoming more selective and concentrated. It follows that further cuts will bear most heavily on those who are most reliant on public funding - the new universities and those who work in them.

Higher education staff will not thank those who have divided and weakened this year's funding campaign by focusing on narrow sectional interests without regard to the wider consequences.

Alan Carr. President, Association of University Teachers

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