As higher education funding dominated the news agenda during the first decade of the millennium, so it does at the start of the next decade. Lord Mandleson has announced a shocking spending cut of £533m for universities in England, casting yet more despair amongst young people already wondering what their future will consist of in these difficult times.
The budget for England's universities will be slashed from £7.81bn in 2010 to £7.29bn in 2011. That means far less money for universities to spend on the valuable resources, especially lecturers and tutors, that help young people to learn, grow and develop during their time at university.
The timing of this funding cut announcement is particularly perplexing. With the economy in recession, job prospects for school leavers are worrying low. Earlier this month, the number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work in the UK increased to 952,000 for the three months to October 2009, the highest figure since records began in 1992. Now, it seems like educational prospects are being reduced as well.
Competition for those remaining jobs is stiffer than ever and young people need to be as prepared and educated as they can be in order to get a chance at a career. Higher education is often they way to grab that chance. But in order to be fully effective, universities need to be properly funded and supported by government - and industry - so that they have everything they can in order to teach and guide young people properly. Clearly, funding cuts go against this basic principle.
At First Tutors we are passionate about education and overwhelmingly positive about the opportunities that it can afford young people. We should support our universities and make education funding a priority. Hopefully, the government will choose to do so again as soon as they can.