Higher education is set to gain millions of pounds more in the Treasury's comprehensive spending review settlement in July, but the money will be tightly linked to improving equal opportunities, lecturers' union Natfhe predicted this week.
Natfhe's head of universities, Tom Wilson, claimed the union had firm indications from education secretary David Blunkett last week that the Treasury would find extra money to address gender and race inequality in universities.
He said: "It was clear that the Department for Education and Employment had used evidence on the universities' need to act on equal opportunities to persuade the Treasury to find the money."
Education ministers have given no public indications of the future funding for higher education under the Treasury's three-year interdepartmental spending plan, but have repeatedly expressed their determination to address equality issues.
Natfhe has calculated that it will cost Pounds 183-Pounds 220 million to close the pay and conditions gap between men and women in higher education, and that between ethnic minorities and white staff. Research by Natfhe earlier this year found women were systematically paid less for the same work than men, in some cases with a pay gap of up to Pounds 20,000.
Natfhe's claims came as the joint higher education unions and the university employers were on the brink of signing a "framework for partnership" on equal opportunities.
According to a draft of the document, the employers have agreed to set local targets for recruiting more women and ethnic minority staff and to begin action to redress pay differentials.