The (lost) soul of the post-92 Universities

The long-term effects of the cuts to Humanities and Social Science subjects are now starting to surface, especially for the Universities that are not part of the Russell Group. In a recent article, Professors Gavin Poynter and Michael Rustin reflect on the case of the University of West London, where the Vice Chancellor has recently produced a Green Paper which in practice proposes to atomise the School of Social Science. The story of the UEL is interesting because it sheds light on the kind of scenario that most of the post-92 universities are likely to face in the near future, whereas university senior managers seem inclined to subject themselves to the agenda of the coalition government by marginalising and disbanding the “low cost disciplines” departments that no longer attract state funding.

In their strive for survival, most of the former polytechnics curricula are now staring to favour vocational training over research and teaching in the social sciences – a choice which seems to be at odds both with the current national economy and labour market and with the ethos of the institutions involved. In doing so, the post-92 Universities are in fact sealing their own fate by reducing the opportunities available to students who may want to study social science whilst charging up to £9000 tuition fees per year. What’s worse, though, is that by yielding to the principles imposed by the government they are also loosing their soul – their primary mission of making higher education accessible to students who are either coming from less affluent backgrounds or unable to enter elite institutions.

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