First of all I’d like to thank the minister for taking some time to answer the questions of those affected by his government’s cuts.
As I know the minister’s time here is limited, I’ve bolded the sections I’d appreciate a straightforward response to.
Currently, Britain can be proud to call many of the world’s best universities her own. This is, I hope, a status quo that will be maintained, but I fear that cutting funding for higher education and leaving it to the vagaries of the free(er) market could represent a step in the wrong direction.
My reasoning is that some universities are already starting to show a preference for international students with fairly poor educational prospects but nevertheless well-capitalised families able to pay the much higher fees for non-EU students. This, I have observed, leads to segregation on campuses along cultural and class lines and brings down the quality of student overall. If universities have their funding cut then they will likely seek proven sources of alternative revenue, and I think we will see a rise in the number of students chosen from abroad not on their academic merits but rather the size of their wallets. This is not good for Britain’s world standing as a centre of learning. I would like the minister to clarify whether the funding cuts will we made up by the increased tuition fees, or whether there will be a cut in real terms.
I also have to express my disappointment that the arts and humanities are likely to suffer most severely under the planned cuts, and declare my interest as a history student. May I ask the minister why he believes the arts and humanities to be of less value to Britain than the sciences and more “vocational” subjects such as management and business studies?
I believe that most students in this country accept that in a time of austerity cuts have to be made and that they have to be wide-ranging. So long as higher education is free at the point of entry, as it will be even with the tuition fee rises, students don’t have to worry so much about the accessibility of a university education. What I am most worried about is the funding cuts and the move to a more “vocational” preference for study, and while I recognise that education is not the only cause in the nation worthy of funding, I want to ask the minister why the cuts could not have been spread more evenly and not fallen so hard on the areas that drive innovation. Why, for example, was it thought a good idea to ring-fence the NHS budget, which represents a much larger proportion of government expenditure?
... and the ones that won't