If you’re studying a degree anchored in the arts, humanities or social sciences, prepare to rip up your text books- because according to the coalition government, your degree is worthless. As a result of the comprehensive spending review, English universities are facing a 40% cut in central government funding. Courses including but not limited to science, medicine and technology will continue to receive funding, whilst it’s looking likely that degrees in the arts, humanities and social will have all of their state funding cut, leaving these courses to be paid for in their entirety by the students who take them.
After universities minister David Willets branded students ‘a burden on the taxpayer’ in June, the implementation of Lord Browne’s higher education review, whilst depressing, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Arts and humanities subjects are sometimes viewed as pointless pursuits- and any student reading one of these subjects at university will be able to instantly recall divulging their degree of choice to a listener who has responded with something along the lines ‘well…there’s more useful things to be studying’. Perhaps I speak as a bitter humanities student- but there are thousands upon thousands of us, and we are none too pleased.
That’s just those of us who are lucky enough to be studying for a degree. Would be students are now finding themselves in a dire situation- with some reconsidering their university bound aspirations altogether. Tony Blair’s New Labour emphasis on ‘education, education, education’, and the party’s 50% promise of young people into higher education somewhat diluted the concept. In terms of higher education opportunities, young people have gone from a fruitful land of plenty to a sparse, dry desert- this year, over 200,000 people were rejected from university places as higher education institutions responded to record numbers of applicants with a hiatus on places.
For a while now, university has been billed as a rite of passage – a place to grow, learn and change. But with these cuts to higher education funding, one can’t help but suspect that these changes aren’t being made in favour of the universities or students themselves, but rather in the favour of the companies waiting in the wings to employ graduates. Leaving the arts, humanities and social sciences to stagnate is dangerous, and has the potential to transform England’s universities into two tier, Dickensian graduate machines.
Young people, it’s time to scrunch up your hopes and dreams and chuck them in the bin. With the cuts hitting women twice as hard as men, the comprehensive spending review appears to hark back to that old adage- women and children first. If you take the time to sift your way through all the deficit talk, and dodge the increasingly patronising credit card debt analogies of the people in power, you’ll eventually discover the facts under the layers and layers of rhetoric. If you’re not too convinced by Clegg and Cameron’s constant and insistent reassurances to the general public that these cuts are both progressive and fair, and you raise an eyebrow at the phrase ‘we’re all in this together’, you are not alone.
News of the comprehensive spending review has hit the general public like a torrential downpour of rain – one we were all expecting since the weather man’s gloomy forecast on Wednesday 12th May.
At the moment, it looks like the nation is quite content with standing miserably on the pavement – getting hopelessly, thoroughly drenched. We’re British, and we’ll put up with it. We knew these cuts were coming, and despite disparate news of the odd dissenting voice or organized protest, the majority of those affected are suffering silently. However, just across the channel tunnel, the population of France are rejecting their imminent downfall. They’re donning raincoats and heavy duty wellington boots in the form of mass protests and street riots in response to Sarkozy’s proposal to increase the French national retirement age by two years.
Far more change in happening to us in the UK, and it looks like the next four years are going to be very difficult indeed. In response to the largest ever cuts to public spending to affect my generation, I think it’s time we made more of a fuss.