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Government plans to improve social mobility are fantasy

18 January 2010 | last updated: 4 April 2019

UCU today said ambitious government plans to expand opportunity at university looked ridiculous next to swingeing cuts across the higher education sector.

The union said that the government had to stop pulling warm-sounding fantasy policies out of the sky when it was axing cash desperately needed by the university sector.
In December the government revealed that it would be making extra cuts of £135m to universities, on top of the £600m announced in the pre-budget report. UCU has warned that students will face larger class sizes and substantial cuts to courses, as thousands of teachers find themselves on the dole queue. Last week university chiefs said that up to 30 universities could be forced to close because of financial problems and UCU warned that 14,000 jobs were now at risk.
The higher education sector is taking the biggest hit in public spending cuts. Germany, France and the US have all pumped additional funding into higher education as part of their economic recovery programmes. The union warned that the government's cuts and its desire to somehow achieve 'more for less' were putting the UK's international competitiveness and chance of economic recovery at risk.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'With access to higher education still largely dependent on social class, the government is right to be looking at ways to ensure that people from all backgrounds can reach university. The reality, however, is that unless the government is prepared to back higher education and reverse plans for damaging cuts then the plans will remain a fantasy.
'The government has to understand that if you make swingeing cuts there will be consequences. There will be job losses and there will be course closures. The sector cannot just do more for less and these plans cannot succeed without proper financial backing for both the sector and these specific initiatives.'
The union was responding to the government's response to Unleashing Aspiration, the final report from the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions.