Tuesday, August 21, 2012

University for sale?

Today's Guardian has both sides of the argument about privatisation in Higher Education. On page 33 a comment article makes the case for wholesale outsourcing of all the non-teaching functions of a University (http://m.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/aug/20/london-metropolitan-university-outsourcing-services?cat=education&type=article), while on page 31 the letters column provides some space for the contrary case to be made (http://m.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/aug/20/university-challenge-london-metropolitan-university?cat=education&type=article).



The author of the former article is the "principal" of a "private university" (http://www.bpp.com/bpp-university-college) and Chief Executive of BPP Professional Education group (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/BPP_Holdings) a wholly owned subsidiary of the US based Apollo Group which makes money out of education in the states - and had revenues of $4.7 billion last year. He is full of praise for the plans of the Vice-Chancellor of London Metropolitan to privatise all non-teaching jobs (except his own office of course!) He says this will allow academics to focus on teaching while creating a "centre of excellence" for support services.



The letter writers are a half dozen UNISON members working in (public-sector) higher education in London, sounding the alarm bell about those same plans - and pointing to numerous examples of privatisation disasters.



From the experience of local government it's clear that the letter writers see more clearly, perhaps because their perception isn't skewed by avarice. The private sector snake-oil salesman who persuade public sector managers they have a magic formula to save money generally do very nicely out of the contracts whether or not services improve and - when they don't - the public sector institution has less operational control and less flexibility.



The "magic formula" is to make savings at the expense of low paid workers - and UNISON activists in HE need all our support to fight this threat.

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