Lancaster University Campaign for Higher Education sign now

We, the undersigned students and staff at Lancaster University, have no confidence in the policies of the Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts, which not only change the way universities are financed, but have far-reaching implications for the very nature of education, and for universities as places of teaching, research and employment. We strongly support the similar motions of no confidence proposed by the Oxford University Campaign for Higher Education and groups at other universities, and urge people to sign the national petition at http://www.noconfidence.org.uk.

Our judgement is based on the following observations:

1. As a public good, education cannot be served by market forces. It benefits not only students, but the wider community, by supporting a flourishing cultural and political sphere. Yet our universities are being privatized.

2. The withdrawal of the block grant for teaching means systematic underfunding of universities and makes the provision of courses in higher education dependent on student fees. This threatens equal opportunities and access to education, and establishes consumer demand as the ultimate arbiter of educational content. We need educational institutions which can respond to more than just the demands of the labour market.

3. The reliance on performance indicators and impact factors in determining the value of research tends to reduce support for exploratory, speculative and critical research.

4. As a place of work, universities are increasingly run like businesses, more reliant on short-term contracts, widening wage-differentials, understaffing and increased workloads.

5. The people who work in our universities are increasingly alienated from decision-making processes which affect their working conditions, and evermore autocratic management practices undermine the idea of the university as a democratic institution.

6. The reforms threaten the expansion of access to the common intellectual heritage across the sciences, arts and humanities, which is the basis of education.

7. The embarrassing U-turns of recent weeks are signs of a policy in total disarray. The HE sector is too important to be thrown into chaos by half-baked ideas and rapid rethinks.

We call on the government to pause its publication of the White Paper to allow for proper consultation and public debate on its proposed reforms.

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