UK higher education faces financial ‘avalanche’

Austerity a greater threat than Moocs and private providers, writes John Morgan

March 21, 2013

A paper warning that UK higher education faces an “avalanche” caused by online learning and private providers “overstates the likely impact of Moocs” and ignores a “much more significant financial avalanche”: austerity.

That was the argument set out by Sir Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, at the launch event in London on 5 March for An avalanche is coming: higher education and the revolution ahead.

The paper was published by the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank but written by three Pearson employees, including Sir Michael Barber, a member of the Browne Review panel and former chief adviser on delivery to Tony Blair.

Sir Steve, a former president of Universities UK, argued that the authors “overstate the likely impact” of massive open online courses. Moocs cannot “replace both the education offered by, and the brand value associated with, traditional universities”, he said.

He also questioned the authors’ conclusions on the declining value of degrees in the job market and the notion that significant numbers of universities could close, highlighting recent successful bond issuances by universities as evidence that they are seen as “forever institutions”.

On future cuts in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, driven by the government’s austerity programme, Sir Steve said that “a much more significant financial avalanche is on its way”.

Using figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ “Green Budget”, he said that in the two years after the period covered by the next spending review, 2015-16, BIS would have to find savings of 12.7 per cent. He suggested that such cuts “have to come” from sources other than student grants and ring-fenced science funding, in areas including budgets for widening participation and infrastructure.

Sir Steve said he also expected “any incoming government in 2015 to look again at the student finance system and try to reduce its costs”.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Daniel Mitchell illustration (29 June 2017)

Academics who think they can do the work of professional staff better than professional staff themselves are not showing the kind of respect they expect from others

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

Senior academics at Teesside University put at risk of redundancy as summer break gets under way

Tef, results, gold, silver, bronze, teaching excellence framework

The results of the 2017 teaching excellence framework in full. Find out which universities were awarded gold, silver or bronze