It is rather refreshing to have David Lammy, the Higher Education minister, speak his mind about universities and the cutbacks. Higher education establishments certainly cannot complain that ministers are not coming clean with them. Writing in the magazine Policy Review, Mr Lammy said it would be a good few years before universities could expect to see any really significant increase in public funding. Therefore they could either contract or try to drum up funds from other sources by offering bespoke teaching to industry or setting up campuses abroad.
Many are already doing this. Indeed some, such as the universities of Hertfordshire and Salford, are intensely entrepreneurial. Those institutions that are strong and flexible enough to enter into income-generating partnerships with others should weather the debt crisis. Others will find the going harder.
The message is clear: whichever party wins the next election will be looking for deep cuts, and higher education will have to take its share. The only long-term solution for universities is to become less dependent on the state; everyone wins in that scenario. Most important, by providing services for business and industry, universities make new friends. More people discover that the country needs and benefits from higher education – and that can only be a good thing.