Letter: Plight of education

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The Independent Culture
Sir: So, the Prime Minister wants British universities to attract another 75,000 foreign students over the next six years ("Universities told: go for foreign gold", 19 June). That is the equivalent of two large universities.

And are we going to get extra staff to teach these new students? Are we going to have new investment? Are we going to see the Government delivering on its alleged priorities of "Education, education, education"? No. We are told that we are going to get only "streamlined visa applications".

The Prime Minister is right to be proud of British universities, still in some ways the envy of the world - but for how much longer can they stay that way, as they are stuffed ever fuller of students?

British higher education is in a crisis that only increased funding can help resolve. Academics' workloads have gone up while salaries have been cut. Class sizes have increased enormously. This "Labour" government continues to cut the budgets of universities each year.

One consequence is that suicide rates among staff and students alike have roughly quadrupled, over the last 15 years. This is a horrifying fact - responsibility for which must be laid a the door of the departed Tory government, and of the current government.

In my own department, our last professor, the great social philosopher Martin Hollis, died of a brain tumour 18 months ago. The university, its budget being reduced by over 1 per cent every year, has as yet not managed to find the funds to replace him; and thus our reputation as a centre for excellence in rational choice theory and philosophy of the social sciences may be under threat.

How can we hope to attract more international students, which we would love to do, when, unlike many institutions in the US, for example, we arguably have less to offer them than we did?


Lecturer in Philosophy

University of East Anglia