UK government accused of ‘punching down’ over London education cuts

UK government accused of ‘punching down’ over London education cuts
The UK’s Education Secretary has been accused of “punching down” over plans to cut spending on universities and teaching in London. (File/Getty Images)
Short Url
Updated 13 February 2021

UK government accused of ‘punching down’ over London education cuts

UK government accused of ‘punching down’ over London education cuts
  • Government claims moves will help “level up” other parts of UK
  • University chiefs cite impact to global healthcare development from loss of money

LONDON: The UK’s Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has been accused of “punching down” over plans to cut spending on universities and teaching in London, as part of the government’s “levelling up” program to redistribute funds outside the capital to other parts of England.
University bosses suggested that plans to lower a grant for London-based teachers would cost them £64 million ($88.5 million), and lead to a cut of over 1,000 jobs, harming London’s position as a global education hub, with some chiefs warning of the impact to global health care development.
There have also been suggestions that the capital’s transport, housing, council and other services could lose funds as part of the reforms.
Education in London has a higher level of funding given that the overall costs of providing services in the UK capital are 14.1 percent higher on average.
Prof. David Phoenix, vice-chancellor of London South Bank University, said: “London weighting was introduced 100 years ago to bring fairness into funding of public services and rightly applies to most public servants in the capital.
“If there isn’t some central contribution to the higher costs of operating in London, there is less funding left to spend on student support than is the case outside London.
In a letter sent to the Office for Students, Williamson stated: “The levelling-up agenda is key to this government, and we think it is inconsistent with this to invest additional money in London providers, the only such regional weighting that exists in the grant.”
But Dr. Diana Beech, CEO of London Higher, which represents more than 40 London universities and colleges, said: “For London, the government’s brutal plan is less about levelling up and more about levelling down.
“Many of London’s institutions are world-leading, attracting the brightest and best from across the globe, while others are bedrocks in their local boroughs, offering a desperately needed lifeline for people from some of the most deprived wards in the UK.
“To underfund London’s ‘big names’ threatens to damage the city’s status as a global higher education powerhouse,” she added.
Twickenham MP Munira Wilson, meanwhile, wrote to Michelle Donelan, universities minister, to warn of the impact of the cuts on students from ethnic minority backgrounds.
“The removal of London weighting will not ‘level up’ the country, it will deepen disadvantage and seeks to level down London,” she said.
Prof. Alice Gast, president of Imperial College London, said: “The pandemic has shown that London’s great universities are indispensable to Britain and the world, with advances in epidemiology, virology, vaccinology, testing and health care. Any cuts hamper our crucial work and threaten Britain’s competitiveness.”
Prof. Jenny Higham, principal of St. George’s, University of London, added: “As a specialist provider for the next generation of health care professionals and scientists, this change will result in a recurrent annual loss of £1.7 million. We operate on small margins; this deficit represents almost all our surplus earmarked for reinvestment in educational and research facilities.”