Clegg “digging himself into a hole” over university funding

Lecturers accused Nick Clegg of "spinning his way out of trouble" over university funding today, following his u-turn over tuition fees, writes Shamik Das.

Lecturers accused Nick Clegg of trying to “spin his way out of trouble” over university funding today, following the deputy prime minister’s interview in The Guardian in which he tried to paint himself as the students’ friend – claiming his personal intervention ensured university funding was only cut by 40 per cent in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).

In this morning’s interview, Mr Clegg also described the CSR as “thoughtful” and accused the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) of “distorted nonsense” after the IFS said the government’s tax and benefit changes “are regressive rather than progressive across most of the income distribution”.

This is not the first time the Liberal Democrat leader has hysterically attacked the respected think tank for contradicting him; in August he described its analysis of the emergency budget as “partial” – just months after saying he was “really delighted” with the IFS’s account of his election manifesto.

The University and College Union (UCU) said of Mr Clegg:

“With friends like him the higher education sector doesn’t need any enemies.”

Universities are facing cuts of ¬£2.9 billion over the next four years, teaching budgets are being slashed by more than three-quarters, and tuition fees are set to rocket in the wake of the Clegg-endorsed Browne review – this despite him, along with every other Lib Dem general election candidate, pledging “to vote against any increase in fees in the next parliament and to pressure the government to introduce a fairer alternative”.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt added:

“Nick Clegg’s supposed intervention has left universities facing massive cuts and left students having to pay the highest public university fees in the world… This is a feeble attempt by the deputy prime minister to try and extricate himself from the controversy of going back on his pledge over tuition fees.

“Voters are not stupid and will see straight through this. My message to Nick Clegg is simple. Stop digging yourself into an even bigger hole or you will be remembered as the man who turned his back on universities, students and their families.”

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