Only days after Boris Johnson gave a speech where he insisted that “levelling up is not a jam-spreading operation. It’s not robbing Peter to pay Paul”, he has done exactly that to London’s students.
It was confirmed today that the London weighting element of the teaching grant will be removed and redistributed to universities outside London. To use the Prime Minister’s own language, he is “robbing” London universities of £64 million per year in a politically-driven campaign to channel funding to Conservative target areas in the North.
Munira Wilson, MP for Twickenham, has been fighting this proposal for months. On hearing that the cuts will come into effect immediately, Munira said:
“This levelling down of London’s higher education will impact some of the most disadvantaged students in the country at the worst possible time.
“In Parliament, I have challenged Ministers on this discriminatory anti-London policy. Cutting funding to universities like St Mary’s, in my constituency, which educate the next generation of key workers is a terrible policy. The cuts represent a 28% reduction in St Mary’s teaching grant, a loss of around £530k per year.
Anthony McClaran, Vice-Chancellor of St Mary’s University, noted the sudden nature of the cuts and how they will impact BAME students and those from poorer background most:
“St Mary’s University students are 32% BAME and 62% meet at least one of the widening participation criteria. These are the students that need the most support and will be hardest hit by these cuts.
“Many of our students are from non-traditional university backgrounds, and St Mary’s University provides these students with a transformational experience, levelling up their life opportunities and graduate outcomes. This cut will have an impact on the targeted support we can offer, at a time when we know students and young people will need more support than ever before, when we emerge from this crisis.”
Diana Beech of London Higher thanked Munira for her work in highlighting the proposed cuts and said:
“An across the board cut to London university funding will force some London providers to implement drastic cost-saving measures, putting at risk up to 1000 jobs and impact student services at a time when they are most needed. We are particularly worried about maintaining mental health services at a time when they are under great strain due to the Covid pandemic.
“Destabilising London’s higher education providers is not a means to level up the rest of the sector; rather it is recklessly levelling down London and sending a clear signal to London’s students that they no longer matter.”
Students, parents, university staff and residents will hear the Prime Minister’s words about levelling up, but his actions speak much louder. It is clear that the current government is anti-London and is prepared to level down London as it tries to appeal to “red wall” constituencies.
– from a Munira Wilson, MP for Twickenham press release - 21 July 2021