Demonstrators clash with police during a protest in Westminster in central London
Demonstrators clash with police during a protest in Westminster in central London Reuters

In the face of massive government spending cuts and rising fees, public universities in the U.K. may be doomed, according to Ekklesia, a Christian-based think tank.

“It is difficult not to conclude that recent wrangles about funding are taking place in the twilight of the public university,” said John Heathershaw, a lecturer at Exeter University

Ekklesia said that the tertiary education funding gap might be addressed by a Business Education Tax, which it says would not affect 96 percent of U.K. businesses.

“What the government is presently doing is not just increasing fees beyond the reach of many ordinary people but eliminating a whole tranche of funding, which imperils the very future of public universities in Britain,” says Ekklesia’s associate director Symon Hill.

“A commercialized, technocratic, and elitist tertiary education system that sidelines arts and humanities and pushes sciences and technology into an marketwise cul-de-sac would destroy the university as a place of free learning, creativity and alternative perspectives.”

Unrest among British students has been escalating as an expression of opposition to the coalition government’s plan to hike the cap on fees from about 3,000 pounds sterling to 9,000 pounds. One protest demonstration in London led to violence as a student was beaten by police. Moreover, a luxury car carrying Prince Charles and his wife Camilla was attacked by school fee-protestors.

“In reality, we [universities] have been less public and less universal for years,” added Heathershaw. “The fees vote in parliament is one more nail in the coffin of both the idea and practice of the university as a public good.”

The government is also seeking to end the “maintenance allowance,” a weekly grant of up to 30 pounds, which helps students from poorer backgrounds to stay at school between the ages of 16 and 18.