Government Cuts University FundsUniversities across the country are making plans to axe thousands of teaching jobs, close campuses, and abandon courses to cope with cuts in government funding, according to the Guardian.

Last week the Higher Education Council for England announced that £449m, more than a 5% in reduction, would be taken from university budgets in 2010 and 2011.

The University and College Union (UCU) warns that 15,000 posts could disappear in the next few years as a result of the cuts. The Guardian spoke to the senior staff at 25 universities who have condemned the move, believing that UK universities are becoming quasi-privatised institutions, resembling their American counterparts.

The chairman of the Russell Group Universities and vice-chancellor of Leeds University, Professor Michael Arthur, warned that budgets would be further slashed by 6% in each of the following three years.

The student-lecturer ratios are expected to rise, as Universities struggle to cope with the cuts. Consequently, many institutions will see postgraduates and short term staff taking the place of professors’ redundancies.

Peter Mandelson, the business secretary, however dismissed the universities’ claims as “gross exaggerations” using “extreme language.” He did not comment on whether he would make further cuts to higher education and argued that universities have “no more than their fair share of belt tightening.”

“We know that universities make a vital contribution to our economic growth, so we are not going to undermine them. We are asking for savings of less than 5% and we expect universities to make these in a way that minimises the impact on teaching and students. I am confident they will.”

The Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) reveals that a record number of applications will be made this autumn and that as many as 300,000 applicants will be rejected.

The financial strain universities will face may be answered by the considerations of a government independent review on whether to raise tuition fees from £3,225 per year to £7,000. This, however, may exacerbate recent claims made by the Prince’s Trust that tens of thousands of future nurses, doctors and teachers will be lost to youth unemployment.

Martina Milburn, chief executive of the Prince’s Trust, told the Metro: “Britain cannot afford to stifle its young talent. Only by investing in young people can we ensure this undiscovered generation isn’t lost forever.”

The government’s policies contrast with the responses in the US made by President Obama, who has proposed a 31% increase in education spending in attempt to tackle unemployment.

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