CSR 2010: What the sector thinks

October 20, 2010

Higher education funding

“It is hard to see the rationale behind slashing college and university budgets when they generate massive economic growth for the country and when the alternative is more people on the dole and the state losing out on millions in tax revenues. It’s no good the Chancellor describing universities as the jewel in our economic crown and then following those warm words up with massive cuts. Every MP with a college or university in or near their constituency should be clear that the cuts will put those institutions at risk.”

Sally Hunt, general secretary, University and College Union

“This is a devastating blow to higher and further education that puts the future of colleges and universities at risk; it will have repercussions for the future prospects of students and learners. This is a spending review that looks an entire generation in the eye and says, ‘You’re on your own.’”

Aaron Porter, president, National Union of Students

“We welcome the fact that the science and research funding is to be spared the depth of cuts that many had feared. However, it should not be forgotten that our competitor countries are injecting enormous investment into their universities, to kick-start growth. Even with this late reprieve, it will remain extremely challenging for leading UK universities to maintain their world-class status and to keep pace with our competitors. We are also concerned about the size of the cuts to rest of the higher education budget. If the UK’s world-class universities are to perform their vital role as the engine room of economic recovery, the government must allow universities to ask for higher graduate contributions as recommended by Browne. Today’s cuts to the higher education budget suggest there is no conceivable ‘Plan B’. We are concerned that the cuts will mean it will be tough to maintain the high quality teaching, learning and research environment our universities currently offer, even under the Browne system. Without a system of higher graduate contributions, we will almost certainly be relegated from the premiership of higher education to the third division.”

Wendy Piatt, director general, The Russell Group

“We are concerned that the 40 per cent reduction in higher education investment will counter efforts to better resource the sector and improve support for disadvantaged students. 1994 Group universities have defied the odds for years, offering academic excellence and world-class learning experiences despite a lack of resources. The Browne Review was a step in the right direction, but today’s announcements suggest that increases in graduate contributions will do little more than maintain current levels of resource. Ministers will have to answer to students if their increased contributions do not translate into better funded universities.”

Paul Marshall, executive director, 1994 Group

“While it is clear that the coalition has yet to agree just how the Browne Review will be implemented in terms of student support, the spending review ushers in a new era. The Chancellor has turned the page on the partnership arrangements on which the Dearing Report and the 2004 Higher Education Act were based. Instead, the Treasury expects that the responsibility for the future funding of universities will primarily be borne by students and graduates, with an expectation that cuts in teaching funding will be replaced by higher fees.”

Pam Tatlow, chief executive, Million+

“The scale of these cuts is almost unbelievable. Today, the UK government confirmed plans to make huge amounts of cuts to teaching spending on universities – cuts that are simply unforgivable and will decimate higher education as we know it. We were supposed to all be in this together, but George Osborne has put himself in a league of his own. These cuts will impact hugely on the lives of countless people across the UK, and particularly those from poorer backgrounds. “

Liam Burns, president, National Union of Students Scotland

“The Browne Review was set up to ensure investment in our universities, not to simply substitute government funding. Biology is at the heart of health, the environment, food security, biodiversity and climate change. There is no cheap option for teaching it well. Hands-on practical work in the laboratory or field must continue. We urge the government to better recognise the differential costs between degrees.”

Mark Downs, chief executive officer, Society of Biology

“Today’s CSR and last week’s Browne Review will mean unprecedented challenges for universities’ finances. With so much at stake, the Chancellor must deliver clarity on whether [the government’s matched-funding scheme for voluntary giving to universities] to stimulate philanthropy to universities will continue, so that institutions can continue to increase and build their fundraising capacity, generating more income for the sector.”

Joanna Motion, vice-president of international operations, Council for Advancement and Support of Education Europe

“Universities are in for a rocky ride. These cuts will call the viability of some universities into question and, at the same time, create greater urgency to pursue efficiency savings. Additionally, Lord Browne’s proposals are likely to create greater diversity in the sector and possibly lead to an increase in mergers and collaborations between institutions…The two key elements critical to thriving will be honesty about the size of the challenge ahead and decisive leadership.”

Rachel Taylor, director of higher education, PricewaterhouseCoopers

Science budget reaction

“I urge the scientific community to respond positively to this signal of the value the government places in its role in the economy. We must now work to ensure that priorities are recognised and public money is used effectively to enhance the UK economy and [the country’s] international standing as a world leader.”

Sir John Beddington, chief scientific adviser to the government

“The government has listened to the voices of the science community who argued that continued investment in science was vital to the UK’s future success. It is now up to the science community to ensure that it delivers on this crucial vote of confidence.”

Sir Mark Walport, director, Wellcome Trust

“The allocation that the science and research budget has received will enable the UK research base to contribute positively to the future prosperity and well-being of the UK. It will nonetheless present challenges to the research community…At this time, we cannot speculate on the allocation that will be made to individual research councils or the impact upon specific disciplines.”

Research Councils UK

“Over many years, UK researchers have proved that they can deliver outstanding results with relatively limited resources. I am confident that we will have the skill and determination to weather the next few years, and to contribute to the regrowth of our economy. In the longer term, I hope we will see a return to a steady increase in the level of funding for research, both by the public and the private sectors.

Marshall Stoneham, president, Institute of Physics

“Immediate reaction? Relief that science has been spared the deepest of cuts. Followed swiftly by the realisation that even at about 10 per cent down, we’ll be playing catch-up in an international field that could see UK science left behind.”

Peter Weissberg, medical director, British Heart Foundation

“It is encouraging that the science budget will be maintained given the critical role that research and innovation will play in the UK’s economic recovery over the next decade. While it is still a cut in real terms, this decision is a significant vote of confidence in the UK’s scientific community and the contribution it makes.”

Gail Cardew, head of programmes, The Royal Institution

“It is wonderful to learn that government has listened to the scientific community. Collectively we have made the case that funding science is not a cost but a way to invest in creating a stronger economy, which is the best way to guarantee the recovery that will benefit everyone.”

Colin Blakemore, former head, Medical Research Council

“A 10 per cent cut over four years is a significant blow to the UK’s competitiveness. The government has failed to recognise what all charities know – that an economic downturn is exactly the time to invest in fundraising to ensure future prosperity. It is research and development coupled with skilled people that will deliver growth. Our international competitors have recognised that: the coalition government has yet to fully accept that reality.”

Mark Downs, chief executive officer, Society of Biology

“A major risk ahead is that annual funding for science research includes a component called full economic costing, which is intended to cover the purchase of equipment, including replacement. But universities are so pressed for funds that this allocation is already being used to support teaching. Our concern would be that although science funding has been frozen, the real-term effect of this over four years will mean that universities won’t be able to afford to replace equipment and fewer research projects will be ultimately funded.”

Richard Pike, chief executive, Royal Society of Chemistry

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