George Osborne warned by UUK president over cuts

George Osborne “must step back” from forcing cuts “that will cause such damage to universities”, the Universities UK president has warned.

January 24, 2014

Sir Christopher Snowden, the University of Surrey vice-chancellor, urged the chancellor not go ahead with scrapping the £322 million student opportunity fund that supports the poorest students.

The Treasury is reportedly pushing for the fund to be scrapped, as it forces the Department for Business Innovation and Skills to make cuts to atone for an overspend.

For the UUK president to warn against cuts to student opportunity funding may be significant. The Russell Group of research-intensive universities, whose institutions gain only small amounts of the funding, has not offered any public support for the funding stream – instead seeking to defend the research budget against potential cuts.

“Just as other countries are increasing their direct contribution to funding universities, the coalition government is thinking about doing the opposite,” says Sir Christopher, writing in the Daily Telegraph in an article that appeared online this afternoon.

The UUK president blames the hole in BIS’s budget on the department’s “miscalculations about the costs of uncontrolled expansion by private (including for-profit) higher education institutions”.

He adds: “This has been exacerbated by higher than expected spending on grants for students from low-income backgrounds – because universities have been surprisingly successful in attracting them.”

Sir Christopher calls student opportunity funding, which supports access and retention for groups such as disadvantaged or disable students, “a smart use of public money”.

He adds: “We know that about a third of productivity growth between 1994 and 2005 was due to the growth of graduate skills in the labour force. Our economy needs more skilled graduates from a wider range of backgrounds. So it would be economically short sighted to reduce support for teaching low-income students.”

On other potential cuts to remaining direct funding for teaching, Sir Christopher says: “There is also a threat to support for high cost subjects and other essential, targeted funding.”

He concludes: “Economic growth will be the most important issue in the forthcoming general election. The chancellor must step back from forcing the business department to go through with decisions that will cause such damage to universities.”

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy