University funding cuts threaten jobs across the region

March 1, 2010 10:17 AM
Tim Bick

Tim Bick

Crippling government cuts in university funding are a huge threat to Cambridge not only through its 16,000 higher education jobs in the city but through a serious knock-on effect on jobs across the eastern region.

That was the message from Cambridge City Council as it called on government ministers to reverse the cuts which could directly affect 18 per cent of the city's workforce.

Councillor Tim Bick, who won backing from fellow Liberal Democrat, Green and Conservative councillors for his motion calling for funding cuts to be reconsidered, said that the higher education sector was more dominant in the local economy than were the Longbridge car plant in Birmingham or Vauxhall in Luton.

"That is quite apart from the jobs of those supported by the money the universities spend," he said, "which has been estimated as at least a further 65,000 in the East of England.

"Whether you work in a shop or a catering business or the local construction industry, whether our universities prosper is of critical importance to you."

Cllr Bick accused the government of selecting higher education as a "soft target with low political cost".

"We should be concerned for the excellence and quality of our universities, which are precariously achieved on a shoe-string by international standards," he said. "We should be concerned about the way this will restrict access and opportunity and fear that it may be paving the way for lifting the ceiling on student tuition fees - a move wholly in the wrong direction."

"The cutbacks are estimated to reduce student places in England next year by 6,000, which will collide catastrophically with the expected greatly increased demand from those whose logical response to the recession is to educate or re-educate for the changed labour market."

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