GuildHE urges government to tread carefully over plans for higher education

Responding to news that today’s Budget will mean cuts in higher education funding next year, the HE representative body GuildHE has urged ministers and funding chiefs to avoid hampering the sector’s ability to educate and train more people and help rebuild the British economy.


Economist and GuildHE Council member Professor David Green, who is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Worcester, said: “There is a real danger that next year’s prospective students will become casualties of the banking sector’s crisis. Ministers must realise by now that the country’s future rests with the development of our knowledge economy and relies on creating better education and training opportunities for everyone. Britain needs high quality graduates and well-resourced universities and colleges more than ever.”


Professor Green called on the Government to follow the example of the United States, which is investing more in education and training as part of its economic recovery plan.


He said: “The way forward for any government is to work to create productive jobs, and higher education is playing an important role in that process. Universities and colleges are involved in developing industries that are cornerstones of the British economy, such as computing, communications, advanced materials, design and the creative arts. The Obama administration in the US has realised this and is acting upon it. The UK should follow suit if it wants to remain a competitive economic force.”


Alice Hynes, GuildHE Chief Executive, said: “Past investment in higher education has brought good returns to the UK economy. In light of this fact and the continuing rise in demand for HE places, it is critical that sufficient funding continues to be provided both for students and the full range of HE institutions and courses.


“GuildHE institutions will be ready to play their part in helping the country back to prosperity. In return, we expect the Government to minimise cuts and to make them in areas that will have the least impact on HE’s ability to realise the full potential of the present and future workforce.”


Professor David Baker, GuildHE chair and Principal of University College Plymouth St Mark and St John, said: “GuildHE would be particularly concerned if the planned cuts fall in areas that will have a detrimental impact on widening access to and participation in higher education. After the decision to freeze funding for additional student numbers, further cut-backs are likely to mean it will be impossible to meet Government targets to attract a higher proportion of people from lower income backgrounds and other under-represented groups into HE. This is particularly frustrating for GuildHE institutions, which have seen increases of up to 33 per cent in applications for places so far this year.”