Total funding for universities from the Higher Education Funding Council for England will stand at just over £4 billion in 2015-16, “essentially unchanged” from the indicative allocations set out in last year’s grant letter, the government says.
It estimates total funding available to universities – Hefce funding plus estimated fee income – will rise from £11.1 billion to £12.1 billion in 2015-16.
However, unlike previous years, the letter does not set out indicative funding levels for two years ahead, raising the prospect the Hefce budget could be slashed in 2016-17 following the expected post-election spending review.
The grant letter also suggests the criteria for funding research will remain unchanged, stating Hefce should “continue selectively to fund world-leading and internationally excellent research wherever it is found”.
The letter, which is signed by business secretary Vince Cable and universities and science minister Greg Clark, also calls on universities to do more to increase the number of female vice-chancellors and senior managers.
“Many universities have also taken some steps to address diversity in their senior management teams, but with only one in five female vice-chancellors there is definitely room for improvement,” said Mr Cable in a press release accompanying the letter.
The letter stops short of recommending quotas for the sector, but Mr Cable called on institutions to “mirror the excellent progress that has been made in the FTSE 100 boardrooms” – which were set a target of 25 per cent of their members to be women in a review by Lord Davies in 2011.
Meanwhile, the letter also appears to hand the administrative process for giving degree awarding powers to Hefce from BIS, along with decisions on university title and who can be designated for access to student loans.
There is additional funding in the letter to support new government priorities including a review of accreditation of computer science but teaching funding priorities remain the same; Hefce is asked to continue to protect, “as far as possible, funding for high cost subjects…widening participation, and small and specialist institutions”.
Grants for individual universities and colleges will be published on 31 March.