CDBU works to defend all British universities. We have members and supporters from every part of the sector and beyond: from professors to undergraduates; from Oxbridge to the Million+ group; from departments of Art History to Neurobiology.
We’re also backed by people with no direct links to higher education who share our belief that our universities are a public good that help make Britain what it is. They are the finest in Europe and rival America’s Ivy League in the global rankings – despite having far less funding. They bring in billions to our economy – and untold intangible benefits. Around the world, our universities are among the UK’s most famous institutions.
Yet they face unprecedented threats. The current government’s reforms were pushed through at great speed with little Parliamentary scrutiny, even less support from academics and students, and no democratic mandate. We believe that, unopposed, they will permanently alter the nature of our higher education sector.
However, we also recognize that these changes are, in many ways, just the extension of the previous government’s approach. CDBU is a non-partisan group, and we welcome the support of members of all political parties and none.
Government policy harms all those with an interest in our universities. However, it impacts different groups in different ways.
- Undergraduates, and all those who aspire to university, are suffering from higher fees and years of debt. Average fees have risen to £8,500 per year, though the government had claimed that fees over £6,000 would be ‘exceptional’. Those from less privileged backgrounds are especially vulnerable.
- The end of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) has made it harder for many pupils to even have a chance to apply to a university.
- Students also face a reduced range of courses. Increasingly, programs that are cheaper to teach and hence more profitable are edging out more involving subjects.
- Graduates and postgraduate students are finding it more difficult to get a foot on the academic ladder. Increasing numbers are forced to resort to unpaid internships and ‘volunteer’ positions – sometimes doing months of research and teaching for free.
- Researchers and lecturers face funding cuts, especially in the arts and humanities. Job insecurity and threatened closure and merging of departments is a further blow to morale.
- Marketization pits universities and academics against each other. It means they are encouraged to compete, not on real quality, but on simplistic and short-sighted ‘metrics’ such as the number of publications per year. This creates perverse incentives: academics are forced to devote more time to research, and less to teaching and mentoring, harming students. Getting out ‘good’ publications becomes more important than doing good research.
- Bureaucracy, marketing and public relations are consuming an ever-increasing slice of the shrinking pool of university money. Instead of providing the best possible student experience, it’s now more important to provide the appearance of doing so.
- Newer universities have suffered worst of all. Without the accumulated capital of the older institutions, they are more vulnerable to the threats described here.
- Taxpayers have woken up to find that the reforms, presented as a way of reducing the deficit, have actually increased it.
Everyone stands to lose from these ill-conceived and mismanaged policies. Some will suffer worse than others. Some have been affected more quickly. But no-one is immune.
Why is a new organization needed? CDBU was founded to make a stand for the university sector as a whole. We recognize the vital importance of the student and trade unions, and we hope to work with them as closely as possible. However, we believe that as well as defending our particular interests, we must unite to protect our public university system – one of the country’s great success stories.
Each university faces unique challenges, but they all share the same root cause. In this instance, we really are all in it together.
Therefore we encourage everyone who cares about higher education to join us. We welcome people from diverse backgrounds and believe that the broader our base, the stronger we’ll become. Find out more and Join Us.