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Coalition government's squabbling over universities damaging higher education, says UCU

8 September 2010

Cable plans for research funding squeeze look like revenge for belittling of graduate tax plans

UCU today said the incessant squabbling and one-upmanship from the different sides of the coalition government might make an amusing spectacle for the Westminster village, but risked seriously damaging to UK universities.
The business secretary, Vince Cable, is expected to signal a squeeze on public finding for science and research this morning. His speech will come just two months after the universities minister, David Willetts, announced that the government was abandoning unpopular plans to force university research proposals to meet stricter economic targets. More on that story at: UCU welcomes decision to postpone plans to force economic impact into research
UCU said the recent shambles and background briefings against Mr Cable's graduate tax plans illustrated the mess the coalition was in. Mr Cable's speech today comes a day before Mr Willetts is due to address the Universities UK conference.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'I am not convinced that anyone in the coalition can really think this kind of one-upmanship does them any favours. However, I fear they are so far entrenched in the Westminster bubble that they cannot see the damage they risk doing to our beleaguered universities. The infighting might make for an amusing spectacle for Westminster insiders, but does nothing to inspire confidence in the coalition.
'A squeeze on research funding from Mr Cable just two months after Mr Willetts announced the suspension of the unpopular economic impact measures for research looks like little more than revenge for attacks from anonymous sources within government on his graduate tax plans.
'We believe the answer to ensuring excellence at our universities is quite simple. As the rest of the world invests in higher education we must match them. If the state wants to insist it does not have the funds, but that we are all in this together, then it is time that business finally pays its fair share for the enormous benefits it gets from the annual pool of graduates.'
Last updated: 11 December 2015