College warns government could “inflict great and irreversible damage” to higher education

by - 19th November 2011, 7.23 BST

Birkbeck College has delivered a devastating assessment of the government’s efforts to reform higher education after its academic board backed calls for the government to suspend the implementation of its white paper.

The motion, passed with an overwhelmingly majority on Wednesday, said the government’s plans, which would allow private for-profit providers greater access to taxpayers’ money, could inflict ‘great and irreversible damage to higher education in the UK.’

The UCU welcomed the move and said it was time for the government to finally start listening to the academic community. Earlier this year over 600 academics from Oxford and Cambridge universities wrote to the universities minister, David Willetts, calling on him to halt plans for higher university fees.

In June a survey of 500 professors revealed that 85% thought for-profit providers would offer lower quality courses than public universities and 81% feared an expansion of for-profit providers would lead to a decline in the UK’s global reputation.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “The government’s plans for higher education have been a complete mess from day one. The delayed white paper finally came out after universities had set their fees for 2012 and has caused complete chaos.

“The academic community has no confidence in the reforms and it is time the government halted its drive to create a market in higher education and listened to what the experts have to say.”