Welsh vice chancellors are to keep up the pressure on Ron Davies, secretary of state for Wales, for an easing of the fierce funding squeeze being imposed on them.
The issue was high on the agenda last week at the annual meeting in Wrexham of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), which was followed by a meeting of the Committee of Heads of Welsh Higher Education Institutions (HHEW).
Adrian Webb, vice chancellor of the University of Glamorgan and a member of the Dearing inquiry, said: "Dearing pointed to a serious funding shortfall, and the efficiency gains planned over the next two years are simply not sustainable." Dearing recommended that annual efficiency gains should not exceed 1 per cent for each of the next two years, but a 6.5 per cent cut is projected over the next two years, on top of the 5 per cent real-terms cut in the 1997 HEFCW allocations.
Professor Webb said that bringing Welsh funding per student up to English levels - another Dearing recommendation was level funding across the UK - would provide an extra Pounds 200-300 per student.
There was no formal discussion of the Government's response to Dearing and the planned introduction of student tuition fees. "We would have been speaking in the midst of so many imponderables that there was little point in it," said Derec Llwyd Morgan, vice chancellor of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
Several vice chancellors also expressed concern about plans for an improved external examiner system, with objections focusing on the likely demands on staff time rather than on the system itself. "At the moment it is hard to see how we could afford to let members of staff go for the time required," said Professor Llwyd Morgan.