While most institutions were this week celebrating a healthy average 2.6 per cent after-inflation increase in their funding, a significant minority were facing up to the consequences of real-terms cuts, writes Tony Tysome.
Some 22 institutions discovered that their provisional grants have fallen compared to last year, taking into account the current 2.7 per cent rate of inflation.
Those left with cuts, representing 17 per cent of the 132 institutions that received notice of their allocations this week, include the Open University, Northumbria, Middlesex, Lincoln and Gloucestershire universities, as well as small specialist institutions such as the Central School of Speech and Drama, Dartington College of the Arts, and the School of Pharmacy in London.
Reductions in funding for widening participation have affected many institutions with a real-terms cut, including the University of Central England, the Royal College of Nursing, Roehampton and Northumbria universities, and St Martin's College.
David Chesser, deputy vice-chancellor of Northumbria, said his university had suffered cuts in widening participation money even though it had hit all its benchmarks. "It will mean that things are a little bit tight for us in the coming year, especially considering the pay settlement for academic staff, which is higher than our 2.5 per cent increase in grant," he said.
Gary Crossley, principal of the Central School of Speech and Drama whose grant has risen by 2.1 per cent, said small institutions such as his would struggle to cover the pay bill without an above-inflation funding increase.
The sector's newest universities, recent entrants into the higher education sector and some small specialist institutions top the table for the biggest increases in grant, and feature strongly among the 28 with double-figure percentage rises.
They include Chester, Bath Spa, Chichester, Edge Hill, Winchester, York St John and Worcester universities, Heythrop College, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Cumbria Institute of the Arts, the Arts Institute Bournemouth, and Leeds College of Music.
Among the top research universities, Nottingham and Cambridge universities and Imperial College London have come out on top, all with grant increases of more than 5 per cent.