University slams government HE policy

Judith Welikala - News Editor 6 October 2011

The University of Cambridge has launched its most stinging attack yet on the Government’s higher education reforms, in an official submission to the most recent White Paper, Students at the Heart of the System.

In its submission to the White Paper consultations, published on Sunday, the University Council said it was “dismayed by the Government’s overall vision and strategy for higher education”.

A number of Cambridge academics have consistently voiced their opposition to the coalition’s higher education policy under the Cambridge Academic Campaign for Higher Education (CACHE), but the submission represents, for the first time, the University as an institution voicing its dissent.

Particular criticism has been levelled towards the positioning of “students as consumers”, which the Council claims “ignores the crucial links between undergraduate and postgraduate education and how research-informed education characterises the student experience in many universities.”

The Council is defiant that higher education “should not be reduced to a utilitarian equation of cost and personal financial benefit”.

This sentiment was echoed by CUSU, who had previously put pressure on the University Council to be more savaging in its critique of the White Paper. Education Officer, Morgan Wild, said: “The White Paper will continue the Government’s failed and flawed attempt to introduce a market into higher education, and we commend Cambridge for condemning it outright, as we strongly encouraged it to do.”

He deemed the White Paper “a disaster for widening participation, for the quality of education and for the very ethos of our public university system.

“If even an institution as traditionally cautious as Cambridge is slamming your policy in the strongest terms, you know you have got your policy badly wrong. This White Paper should not be allowed to get out of Parliament.”

The Cambridge University Council also attacked the government’s immigration policy, claiming aspects of it “had (and still have) the capacity to inflict serious damage on the international reputation and missions of our universities”.

Last week hundreds of academics, including members of CACHE, signed an alternative White Paper, In Defence of Public Higher Education. This criticised the “commodification of higher education” that it argues “is at the secret heart of the White Paper”.

Judith Welikala – News Editor