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UK – a cry from the research universities

For most of world’s economies that are struggling to make it through the financial meltdown reducing public spending is becoming, if it has not already, a must. The same goes for the UK. Striving to halve UK’s national debt by 2013, British authorities announced, amongst others, a series of cuts to the funding of higher education institutions in Britain. The cuts seem to add up to GBP 900 million over the next three years. The main fear of universities is, however, that they haven’t seen the end of this.

As one would expect, higher education institutions, and British universities in particular, are not passive watchers. Spokespersons of the Russell Group, which includes the large research-intensive universities, are already warning on the possible consequences of the measure at the institutional level, but also on the higher education system as a whole: 30 universities might have problems surviving even if minimal cuts are introduced; universities face closure of hundreds of courses, working with fewer academic staff and bigger classes; and last but not least, the measure could negatively impact on the excellent standing of British universities in the world rankings.

The situation is, no doubt about, serious. It may, however, look not so dramatic if put into perspective - thinking of the situation of Latvia these days, UK’s higher education sector looks much more fortunate. Also, British universities are only partly (or minimally, as some would argue) public funded - a large share of their funds comes from another source, i.e. the large cohorts of overseas students. As the review of the tuition fees cap is scheduled for this year, universities will almost certainly try to compensate on this front the losses they incurred because of government’s recent decision.