The Higher Education Funding Council for England must spend £20 million on its newly established cadre of university centres to promote best teaching practice or risk having to return it to the Treasury, it has emerged, writes Anthea Lipsett.
The council gave its support to some 74 centres for excellence in teaching and learning (Cetls) in English universities in January, but many centres did not apply for the maximum grants available for buildings and facilities.
Carole Webb, Cetls project co-ordinator at Hefce, said: "Those that were approved didn't all apply for the maximum amount." As the capital funding is only available for two years, the council is running up against a deadline for spending the unused £20 million.
Ms Webb said that the money could not be used to fund new centres, but could be allocated to existing ones.
"Cetls need to demonstrate how they might spend that by doing more, [namely] bringing in more institutions - such as further education colleges - or using the capital to reach yet more students," she said.
There is a total of £315 million in funding available over five years from 2005-06 to 2009-10 for the scheme.
Each Cetl receives recurrent funding, ranging from £200,000 to Pounds 500,000 a year and a capital sum of between £800,000 and £2 million.
Cetls will not be expected to put in a bid for the extra cash, but they need to respond to the council by the end of the year.
Hefce is still waiting to see whether more government funding is made available to provide finance for an additional 24 centres outlined in the Government's skills White Paper published in March.