Fairer funds debut

June 13, 1997

KEY decisions on a fairer system for funding teaching in English higher education are revealed to institutions this week.

The new method developed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England is based on principles flexible enough to respond to any changes suggested next month by Sir Ron Dearing's commission of inquiry.

It will introduce a standard price for a full-time equivalent student in each of four price groups, ranging from about Pounds 2,600 in humanities subjects to Pounds 11,700 for clinical studies. It will also establish a standard amount of funding for each institution.

The council wants all institutions to achieve funding rates within 5 per cent of this figure and to achieve this will adjust the amount of money and students each receives over three years.

According current estimates Southampton, Luton and Derby, among others, will lose student numbers and gain funds, while Oxford Brookes, Manchester Metropolitan and Leeds Metropolitan will lose funds and gain students.

The changes, to be introduced in 1998-99, will give extra cash to institutions for part-time students and full-time mature students. Universities and colleges will also receive a 25 per cent premium for all students on courses of 45 weeks or longer a year.

London weighting is replaced by an 8 per cent premium for inner London and 5 per cent for outer London, while a 2 per cent premium goes to institutions belonging to the Universities Superannuation Scheme. An advisory panel, chaired by Edinburgh University vice chancellor Sir Stewart Sutherland, is still considering premiums for specialist institutions.

Disabled students will not be included in the weightings because the funding council is still trying to develop reliable ways of defining them. Until then they will continue to receive support through non-formula funding.

Nor will there be any premium for postgraduate students. There will be no separate premium for students with nontraditional entry qualifications or for those from poorer social groups, although this will be reviewed.

Further education colleges will also have to wait for inclusion. The funding councils are to study comparative costs of higher education in different types of institution before making any further decision.

After complaints from subject groups, including geography, modern languages and archaeology, which claimed they had been put in too low a band, HEFCE reassigned some departments and subjects to higher price groups.

Mathematics, geography and archaeology will all be promoted, together with certain modern languages, information and media production departments. Others are still under consideration.

In addition, institutions will be able to bid for extra students in particular subject areas if they can show they will help innovation, meet regional needs or address national priorities.

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