Cash for classroom-based teaching will rise 20 per cent next year, and funding chiefs have done a U-turn on plans to cut the money given to media studies after an outcry by leading industry figures.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England will boost funding for the teaching of classroom-based subjects, which tend to be in the arts and humanities, to about £3,400 per full-time student.
The decision means a narrowing of the funding gap between classroom-based and more expensive laboratory-based subjects.
But laboratory-based subjects will not lose out as a result. The extra money for classroom-based subjects will come from consolidating a range of individual pots of money into the teaching grant. This follows the recommendations of the Better Regulation Review Group to cut red tape.
Among the special initiatives rolled into the grant is the scheme for rewarding and developing staff. Along with cash compensation for increases in employers' contributions to the Teachers' Pension Scheme, this will account for £200 million of extra funding for teaching next year.
Sir Howard Newby, chief executive of Hefce, said: "We warmly welcome these proposals. They bring support for a number of separate initiatives into the mainstream funding, and will help to reduce the amount of red tape that universities and higher education colleges need to deal with."
But Roger Kline of lecturers' union Natfhe said it was important to ensure that teaching money was spent on salaries.
A Hefce spokesman said: "We have narrowed the range of weightings between the price groups to reflect the findings of our analysis of institutions'
expenditure per full-time-equivalent student in different subject areas.
"One possible explanation for this narrowing in relative costs may be the increased use of IT equipment across all disciplines."
Transparency in teaching costs is the name of the game and, ultimately, the funding council plans to introduce a model for funding teaching that is similar to the one being implemented for research.
Threats to cut teaching money for media studies and sports science sparked an outcry last autumn from leading lights in the film, broadcasting and publishing industries, including Labour peer David Puttnam and former culture minister Chris Smith.
The funding council attributed its change of heart to the fact that its data are based on multi-faculty universities while media studies generally takes place in specialist institutions. But it plans to review the situation in time to influence funding in 2005.
Christine Geraghty, professor of theatre, film and television studies at Glasgow University and chair of the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association, said: "We are pleased that the original proposal has not been implemented at this point. The whole issue of funding and how it is going to be arranged is still around, and we will be lobbying to ensure that proper funding for media studies is maintained."
Hefce also confirmed that it would reward research departments that gained the top 5* grade in the 2001 research assessment exercise without dropping the number of staff submitted.
It will review the levels of funding for research departments rated 5*, 5 and 4 at its board meeting later this month. But it has pledged that the grant for the very best 5* departments - dubbed 6* in last year's white paper - will not be cut at any institution, even though the number of such departments has doubled.
* Hefce is looking for ideas on how to spend £10 million on leadership, governance and management.
It has identified a potentially wide scope for funding work over the next three years and wants to know whether it should prioritise certain areas.
These include: sustainability; processes such as research management; governance; human resources management; property; money; organisation such as legislative compliance; IT; and resources such as risk management.
The deadline for responses to its consultation on the leadership, governance and management cash is February .
Hefce board decisions
- There will continue to be four price groups, A (the most expensive, for fields such as clinical medicine) to D
- Media studies will continue to be funded in groups B, C and D (not D as recommended), pending a review of the full cost of different types of media courses to inform funding in 2005-06
- Sports science will continue to be funded in groups C and D, pending a review of the full economic cost of different types of courses to inform funding in 2005-06
- Psychology will be funded entirely in group C, as proposed in the consultation
- Computer software engineering will be funded entirely in group C, as proposed in the consultation. But the criteria for assigning activity to computer software engineering and electrical, electronic and computer engineering will be reviewed
- All sandwich-year students will be funded as group C.