12 December 2010

University funding - BBC coverage

What really bugs me about the last few weeks' coverage of the student fees issue on the BBC has been its concentration on the Liberal Democrats' agonies: which way to vote, whether Dr Cable would vote for the policy he himself was introducing, would the Parliamentary party split two, three or four ways?  Questions over Nick Clegg's personal credibility and ability to hold the party together are all very well, but compromises are the stuff of coalition.  Does it make any sense to roast the LibDems for a pre-election promise that clearly didn't convince enough of the electorate to put them into overall control?  No.

The much bigger issue that's been obscured by the soap opera focus on the LibDems is the change in university funding.  Though there's been no White Paper, precious little news coverage and not much debate or comment in the press, a huge shift is taking place in the central Government funding of higher education, reducing the annual budget from £7.1 billion to £4.2 billion in 2014-15.  With the ring-fencing of funding for the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths subjects, other subjects will have little or no public funding.

Very quickly, we could end up with 'universities' that are nothing of the sort, with very little teaching of non-technical subjects.  Change of this scale should be debated properly before being enacted.  The BBC could and should make a better contribution to the understanding of this issue.

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