I am concerned to learn that the plans to reduce the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills budget may require a significant reduction in the student opportunity fund.
Many institutions use the fund to create career opportunities for those traditionally under-represented in higher education, targeting previously untapped potential from across communities and raising aspirations. The opportunity funding was cut by £40 million last year, and this gradual erosion of financial support for those who need it most is incredibly damaging.
These financial support structures play an essential role in ensuring that the UK continues to have one of the most diverse and highly skilled workforces in the world by helping to support people from less advantaged backgrounds into education and providing help that can make the difference between success and failure once they are studying. In addition to the individual impact, the loss of such graduates would be damaging to the communities that benefit from the skills and expertise that these students bring as graduate employees and, subsequently, would be damaging to the economy as a whole.
I accept that there is a need to look at the long-term sustainability of university funding mechanisms, but we should not accept short-term cuts that hurt the most vulnerable or undermine universities’ ability to deliver their contribution to economic growth – via skills development, research and enterprise. I urge the Treasury to support BIS in maintaining the funding to universities while a more holistic long-term approach is developed.
London South Bank University