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UK education spending falling fast as rival nations look to boost investment

Public spending on education is declining at a faster rate than at any time since the 1950s, while countries like China and the United States invest heavily in higher education.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies education spending will decline by as much as 13 percent in real terms in the years 2010-11 to 2014-15; with universities, post-16 education and early-years schooling taking the biggest hit. Higher education spending, specifically, is set to be cut by 40 percent over the next four years.

The news comes two weeks after the Vice Chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Andrew Hamilton, warned that higher education spending cuts planned by the coalition government would see the UK falling behind its rivals.

In an address to leading academics in October, Professor Hamilton argued that graduate students would be put off studying in the UK due to cuts being made to research funding. He also pointed out that as the British government focused on introducing tough spending cuts on British universities, both China and the US had increased education spending. Meanwhile, the Chinese government have announced that they intend to create 100 new top class universities this century.

Following government cuts, the UK is currently spending 1.2 percent of GDP on higher education. The OECD average is 1.5 percent.

Ann Mroz, the editor of Times Higher Education (THE) magazine (who published a list last month that shows that the gap between top UK universities and the rest is increasing), stated that it was remarkable that British universities were able to maintain high standards despite funding constraints. “Given the disparity in funding levels [between the UK and the US] our performance is nothing short of staggering. Put simply, we spend much less on our universities than many of our competitors – less than the OECD average – and yet outperform almost all of them. These facts make the massive gamble that we are now taking, by all but abolishing public funding for university teaching and replacing it with tuition fees, all the more questionable.”

A spokesman for the Department of Education stated that cuts to education spending were part of broader austerity measures put in place to deal with the budget deficit. The government have also stated that despite the cuts, spending on primary and secondary school would be ring-fenced.

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Joe Sandler Clarke

Joe Sandler Clarke is the head of student media at the University of Manchester. He was longlisted for Amnesty International's Student Human Rights Reporter of the Year in 2012. He was a News Editor at The Mancunion in the year 2011-12
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