All we want for Christmas is Pounds 5 bn, say v-cs

December 17, 1999

Intellectual property rights

Vice-chancellors have sent the government a Pounds 5 billion Christmas wish list - extra money they say the sector needs to expand while maintaining quality.

The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals' submission to the comprehensive spending review for three years from 2001 is universities' biggest-ever cash request.

Five key "investment needs" have been identified that the committee argues must be met to achieve the government's targets to raise under-30s participation to 50 per cent and to increase the sector's share of the international higher education market without letting standards slip. The needs are:

* An extra Pounds 1.375 billion in core funding to sustain teaching and research quality at 2000-01 levels. The CVCP is calling for next year's 1 per cent efficiency gain to be rescinded and funding held at the same level in real terms for three years. This would mean Pounds 290 million more in 2001-02, a further Pounds 167 million the following year and an extra Pounds 172 million the year after

* Pounds 425 million to cover the cost of planned extra places without reducing funding levels per student

* Pounds 500 million to provide better IT equipment and facilities for teaching and learning

* Pounds 1.35 billion to boost research facilities and technology-transfer capability to ensure the United Kingdom does not fall behind global competitors in wealth creation. This includes an extra Pounds 900 million the CVCP says is still needed to bring the sector's research infrastructure up to internationally competitive levels. The CVCP also wants another Pounds 450 million to beef up the funding councils' "third leg" of funding for applied research

* Pounds 1.4 billion to meet the recommendations of the Bett inquiry in full to modernise academic pay structures and conditions of service, and tackle recruitment and retention problems.

The CVCP says the size of its spending request, an 18 per cent increase over three years, is justified because a well-maintained higher education sector is crucial to wealth creation and the development of a knowledge-based economy. Universities have a key role in helping to achieve government goals of improving employability, flexibility in changing markets, technology transfer and entrepreneurship, it says.

The submission, which must reach government departments before Christmas, warns that despite extra government investment over the past two years, funding council figures show the sector still faces an operating deficit next year of Pounds 250 million, affecting a third of institutions.

Byers backs knowledge, page 3

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