Call-out: Notes on Mandelson’s Anti-Intellectual Policies

Higher Education Cuts

This morning on the BBC Radio 4 Today program, we heard (as is being reported elsewhere, also), that yesterday, in a letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Peter Mandelson (Labour’s Business Secretary) announced massive cuts to the Higher Education budget.

This is not actually new news, unfortunately, since this move has long been implicit in Government HE policy, and was expected by all who take any interest in Universities.

We also heard on this morning’s Today program Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU) putting forward the illogic of this manoeuvre, and of course, since the BBC has a commission to remain neutral, some rather shocking opinions from Andrew Haldenby, director of the think-tank Reform. What did Haldenby say? First, that Mandelson “has to be praised” for instituting cut-back policies which are, according to Haldenby, actually very sensible and necessary – which borders on outright lying, nevermind misanalysis. Second, although he admitted that these cuts would leave a gaping hole in University budgets, that HE won’t suffer because “before too long more money will be going to universities, but it won’t be coming from the government – it will be coming from students. Because there is a Higher Education funding [shocked noise from Sally Hunt] review going on led [partial interjection from John Humphreys] by John  Browne, er, Lord Browne, which is, er, which I think everybody would expect that to lift the cap on tuition fees.”

There you have it, then, folks. The director of a major policy generating think-tank, in which all parties are implicated, forgets himself for a second and reveals what all the politicians are too snake-like to express openly, but which anyone with half a brain cell has known for months: that the HE review is a flimsy sham; that government policy is anti-intellectual; that fees will continue to go up, and research funding will continue to go down.

As a result lecturers will start finding that they are being made redundant, that they cannot get funding for research and that they cannot make necessary improvements to departments and courses because of ‘lack of resources’ (dough, moola, hard cash). Postgrad students, apart from receiving no funding or financial support (the current state of affairs) will find it more and more difficult to get any academic job, nevermind full time lectureship (I think many of those who do gain employment will find themselves being employed as lower paid Teaching Assistants). Students will find that they are running up huge debts, that they are being asked to pay far more than they can afford, whilst simultaneously being presented with worse courses, shorter courses, more hidden charges, less teaching, less independence and intellectual freedom, and less opportunities for postgraduate study (PG funding in Arts and Humanities is already almost non-existent). And of course, academic freedom will effectively be restricted by new ‘impact’ assessment criteria designed to justify massive underfunding of arts, social sciences and humanities subjects. Which is, of course, part of a strategy (consciously or unconsciously) of attack on the political content of research, on already limited and besieged political and societal critique.

And those in other countries are looking on with disbelief at what HE and academics in England are suffering – and some with a steadily intensifying anxiety that they may see similar policies implemented in the counties in which they work and research.

There is only one solution: we know that the politicians who supposedly represent us do not;  that they have failed us, and continue to do so. Therefore, in this fast approaching new year we need to stop looking toward, debating with,  cooperating and complying with politicians and government bodies. Instead we need to get together on our campuses, in our homes and workplaces, and start talking to each other. We need to develop solidarity – between all students, all lecturers and other staff, and between all disciplines. But also we need to develop dialogue and solidarity with the larger international academic community, and with workers in other industries – in both the public and non-public sector – who are likewise suffering from recession cutbacks and ‘modernisation’ restructuring, who are  likewise suffering worsening working conditions and redundancies. We need to get together and act together in solidarity to restore our right to make the policy decisions that will effect us.

In the new year I predict there will be more hardship, more cutbacks and more strikes and protests. I hope there will also be, in tune with this, an academic uprising.



The SHAM Higher Education Review
News Story from Guardian
The Independent’s news story
BBC Radio 4 Today program, with audio
Those assholes at Reform


~ by Wit on December 23, 2009.

One Response to “Call-out: Notes on Mandelson’s Anti-Intellectual Policies”

  1. […] Unspeakable Practices we have already responded to these plans with condemnation. Certainly, then, it is good to hear mainstream ‘powerful’ voices condemning them also. But, […]

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