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Unis tighten the purse strings as 27% courses are axed

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As school leavers get set to take their places at university, many will find the extent of choice of courses available are becoming increasingly limited.

The University and College Union has produced a report which suggests the number of undergraduate courses has decreased from 70,052 in 2006 to 51,116 in 2012. Single subject courses (STEM) have suffered a reduction of 15%, while arts and humanities have decreased by 14%. French and German have even been cut completely as single subject degrees in eastern England and the north-east. This is starkly contrasting to Scotland, which has seen a cut of only 3%.<br/><br/>Leading academics featured in the report highlight the fear that the rise in tuition fees has prompted the commercialisation of degrees in England. Academic value is being considered as of less importance than student numbers and financial issues. Professor Philip Schofield warns that "The importance of a course - is not a function of the number of students who are prepared to take it" As increasing numbers of students are opting to study at universities closer to home in order to minimise costs, resulting in the possibility of a post code lottery for which subjects one can study. In the South West, for example, a deplorable 47% of courses have been axed.<br/><br/>Nobel laureate for medicine and chief scientific officer at the New England Biolabs said: "One of the hallmarks of a British education in my earlier years was the very breadth of subject matter that could be studied and that our policies are now seeking to restrict. While this may make economic sense it is almost guaranteed to lead to the deterioration of the human mind and its opportunities for innovation ... These days it seems universities are increasingly being treated as technical colleges from which graduates will emerge with some very specialised skills. This is a huge mistake."<br/><br/>While some youngsters appear to know what they want to be when they grow up from before they leave their push chair, students who do not have such clear direction look set to suffer as their breadth of choice in subject opportunity is increasingly restricted.<br/><br/>The general secretary of the UCU, Sally Hunt, has criticised the government's approach to funding higher education: "While successive governments have been dreaming up new ways to increase the cost of going to university, the range of subjects available to students has fallen massively. As student numbers have continued to rise, choice has fallen across almost all disciplines, including STEM subjects, which governments have pledged to protect."<br/><br/>The combination of rising fees and the reduction in number of courses offered has the potential to drastically reduce the number of students wishing to attend university, as the financial burden of gaining a degree in a course one is not whole heartedly interested in will prove unappetising. Hunt crystallises this point through her declaration - how many potential Nobel Prize winners will not see the light of day because the choices that were available to previous generations are simply not there now?"
mona tabbara grb author

Mona studied English at the University of Bristol.

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