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UCU questions Lord Mandelson's wisdom after he says funding cuts might help universities

21 January 2010

UCU today questioned the wisdom of Lord Mandelson after he said that massive university cuts might be a blessing in disguise.

Responding to a question at Lords questions from Lady Garden of Frognal, Lord Mandelson said 'tighter budgets right across the public sector, including in higher education, can be a spur to further diversifying funding of British universities.' He went on to add that the cuts 'can also focus minds on teaching and research excellence and new ways of delivering higher education.'
UCU said that the cuts could be not made without consequence and asked if Lord Mandelson really believed that bigger class sizes, less contact time with lecturers for students and massively increased workloads for lecturers who had avoided the sack were what the UK needed to try and maintain its global position in an increasingly competitive environment.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Lord Mandelson has to understand that you do not just get more for less. Considering we already spend less than our competitor countries on higher education, few people will agree that slashing funding is the way to ensure the UK can retain, let alone improve, its world-class reputation.
'Does Lord Mandelson really think students will be able to diversify their learning sat in the biggest classes in Europe? Does he think reduced time with lecturers will help students focus their minds on their work? Does he believe massively increased workloads for those staff that survive the jobs cull will help them prioritise their to-do list?'
In December the government revealed that it would be making extra cuts of £135m to universities, on top of the £600 million announced in the pre-budget report. UCU said that students will face larger class sizes and substantial cuts to courses, as thousands of teachers find themselves on the dole queue.
The higher education sector is taking the biggest hit in public spending cuts and the union pointed to the fact that while Germany, France and the US had all pumped additional funding into higher education as part of their economic recovery programmes, the government cuts were putting at risk the UK's international competitiveness and chances of economic recovery.
Last updated: 11 December 2015