The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

UK government ‘under-spending on higher education’, says Dame Nancy

– Vice Chancellor criticises government over education spending
– States that academics don’t “have that strong a voice” on cuts

By and

The UK government is “under-spending on higher education”, according to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Manchester.

Speaking to The Mancunion, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell said: “I think we’re under-spending on higher education in this country.

“I appreciate that we’re in difficult times at the moment and there have been cuts across the board, but education is critical for the future.”

The Vice Chancellor took up a post as a government adviser on science in February 2012 following an invitation from the Prime Minister David Cameron. She is currently the Co-Chair of the Council for Science and Technology.

Dame Nancy had been asked to respond to comments made by Professor Andrew Hamilton, the Vice Chancellor at Oxford University last year, when he stated that the UK risked “falling behind its rivals” due to reductions in government spending on higher education.

In an address to academics last winter, Prof Hamilton pointed out that as the coalition government focused on introducing tough spending cuts on British universities both China and the US had increased education spending.

The government has repeatedly defended higher education spending cuts as being part of a broader austerity programme aimed at reducing the UK’s budget deficit.

During her discussion with The Mancunion, the Vice Chancellor also suggested that the academic community was weak in the face of reduced government funding – stating that she didn’t “think the academic community have that strong a voice when everything’s being cut.”

The president of the University of Manchester University and College Union Philippa Browning responded saying the UMUCU, representatives of the academic community, had been strong in campaigning against the rise in fees and spending cuts.

“There has been a lot of support from the UCU and our colleagues against the introduction of student fees and the cuts associated with that,” she told The Mancunion. “I think we have objected to that very strongly.

“I think the union has taken a strong stand against cuts and against the introduction of fees.

“We continue to fight against cuts. A large part of what the union does is campaigning against funding cuts,” said Browning; a Professor of Astrophysics at the School of Physics and Astronomy.

The UCU took industrial action last year following a dispute over pensions; with union members claiming that some staff could lose as much £100,000 under proposed changes. Industrial action was suspended to allow talks with employers from January until the summer, but action resumed following a union vote in June. At the time of writing union members are set to debate whether to escalate the action.