Degrees of Debt
Ron Roberts and Christiane Zelenyanszki
The landscape of higher education within the UK has changed beyond recognition. Few people can be unaware of this – however, some of the serious consequences of these changes have yet to be fully appreciated, by the public at large, by academics and indeed by policy makers. The restructuring of higher education has been justified on the grounds that, in order to remain economically competitive, the country needs to possess a 'modern' system capable of delivering mass higher education. One of the obvious signs of this drive to competitiveness has been the rapid expansion in numbers of students enrolling in further and higher education in the UK; the bulk of this expansion occurring in the early 1990s when numbers in full-time education increased by 55 per cent. This expansion was most pronounced amongst women, whose numbers increased by 72 per cent. Amongst part-time undergraduates, enrolments for women increased by 88 per cent, in comparison to an increase of only 9 per cent for men. This strongly suggests that the forces responsible for restructuring the wider labour market toward more part-time casual employment – chiefly of women in low-paid work (Hutton 1995) – have also been active in the arena of higher education.
As numbers of students have rocketed, successive governments have failed to match this with real spending (Central Statistical Office 1997). Academic salaries have declined in relation to comparable professions, and the state's financial provision for students has come under progressive