Uncertainty, economy and improvisation
in A history of the University of Manchester 1973–90

In 1973 came one of the great turning points in British university history, a transition into a bleaker world governed by the principles of uncertainty, economy and improvisation. The finances of most British universities lay at the mercy of politicians and were subject to capricious cuts in public spending. Their precarious situation was a consequence of the state-financed expansion of the previous decades. What taxpayers gave, their elected representatives could pare and trim when the economy wilted and crisis loomed. At the end of 1973, Edward Heath's administration withdrew guarantees that the government would protect the finances of universities against the effects of inflation. No more would it proclaim itself ready to look with sympathy upon their plight. Anthony Barber, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, reduced university income from parliamentary grants by about 10 per cent.

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