The glorious days for British universities, which began when Labour came to power in 1997 and which led to expansion on a generous scale and a massive amount of building, are well and truly over. But whether any universities will go to the wall is debatable. At the moment the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) is concerned about the viability of only a tiny handful of institutions. If the squeeze continues or gets worse, that number could grow. And if that happens, Hefce might need to develop a policy on mergers and restructuring.
But, for now, the number of jobs being cut looks fairly modest, certainly compared to the private sector, however much the University and College Union (UCU) wants to pretend otherwise. Surrey University's loss of 65 jobs is a tiny proportion of the whole and its vice chancellor, Professor Christopher Snowden, has explained cogently why they are neededto ensure that his university continues to flourish. The UCU's attempt nationally to use this to whip up support for a ballot on industrial action looks pretty opportunistic when you consider how hard Snowdon has worked to be open and honest with his staff.