Uncertain future for University of Suffolk
By Councillor Oliver Holmes
As students return to the University of Suffolk next week, a major change in government policies on higher education threatens the future of many of the newer universities. The Chancellor is determined to reduce losses to the Exchequer on student loans (currently estimated at £10 billion pa and expected to top £20 billion in three years' time). Additionally, the government has promised publication of proposals for radical reform along the lines of the 2019 Auger Review - re-allocating funding to apprenticeships and further education and away from universities. Reducing tuition-fees, cutting "low-value" courses and increasing entry requirements are all likely according to various leaks from the Department for Education. The reforms are likely to be announced before the Chancellor's Spending Review on 27th October.
The University of Suffolk is the newest university in the country and, as a result, is particularly vulnerable. Reforms will probably mean fewer, if any, courses in subjects such as film, dance, politics, history and photography. Ipswich's MP, Tom Hunt, like many Tories, is not a supporter of non-Russell Group (older, red-brick) universities and has said recently that "...far too many people are going to universities, often to questionable universities and doing questionable degrees." Presumably, this does not include the two universities he attended (Manchester and Oxford) or the Politics and History degree he took. He also believes that on graduating, students "invariably seem to be, a good chunk anyway, radical Marxists."
The Liberal Democrats will oppose restrictions on access to higher education. Newer universities, such as Suffolk, have brought in many students who would not have attended higher education in the past and this must not be lost. We also believe degrees in humanities are essential to the economy and wellbeing of this country.