The union warned a significant impact of the planned cuts would be to create some of the largest university class sizes in the developed world.?
UCU further warned slashing university funding would have a devastating impact on the overall quality of students' experience at university as another knock-on effect would be a huge reduction in vital support services, such as libraries and student counselling.?
UCU said its figures were conservative estimates and that the impact of cuts on jobs and class sizes could be even worse. The union said its analysis raised serious questions about the country's future role as a leading player in the global knowledge economy.
UCU warned that increased class sizes and less contact time with lecturers would make it a far less attractive place to study for overseas learners, who currently contribute £8.5 billion to the economy a year.?
The union’s general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "The scale of the cuts that we are facing is unprecedented and will have an undeniable impact on the student experience. Student to staff ratios, which are already high, will become some of the highest in the developed world.? Lecturers that survive the cull will have less time to give individual students as they pick up the workloads of former colleagues and there will be fewer support services for students. The Government will effectively be asking students to pay for more for less at a time when our international competitors are investing in higher education.? Do we really want to be left behind and risk being shunned by foreign students who will go to study elsewhere?
We have a proud international reputation, but we realistically cannot expect to remain a major force in the global knowledge economy in the face of these cuts."?
Responding to the union’s claims, Petra Wilton, director of policy and research at Chartered Management Institute, added: "There is no denying that cuts are necessary if the UK is to scale the heights of its debt mountain, but taking such a swingeing axe to university funding is extremely risky.
"Employers across the UK are increasingly worried about the calibre of entrants to the job market and reducing the number of lecturers will impact on the quality of education that undergraduates receive, especially as we currently invest less in high-level skills in the UK than many of our European neighbour states.
"We do not underestimate the need for budget cuts, but we should also look more strategically at the scope for cost effectiveness. Rather than salami-slicing the budgets of individual universities there is scope for savings from reducing regulation and quangos and through more co-ordinated provision of services. Universities already provide many courses that are managed by professional bodies that have the structures in place to offer accreditation and assessment services. These partnerships could be more widely exploited to help achieve the Government’s savings and desire to improve employability."