Hefce unveils teaching cuts

Nine institutions will lose more than £1 million each in 2009-10. Rebecca Attwood reports

July 25, 2009

Nine universities’ teaching budgets will be cut by more than £1 million this autumn.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has published details of the £65 million in cuts to universities’ 2009-10 teaching funding announced by the Government in May. Each university will lose the same proportion of cash, so those that receive the largest teaching grants will suffer the biggest losses.

The Open University loses £2.5 million, the University of Manchester £1.4 million and the University of Leeds £1.3 million. (For a full breakdown see Excel file attached)

The University and College Union said the cuts could lead to more job losses across the sector, warning that £65 million could equate to a further 1,500 full-time lecturing and support staff being axed.

Earlier this month, a UCU report said that nearly 6,000 job cuts were threatened across the higher and further education sectors, affecting provision for more than 100,000 students.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU, said: “This £65 million is just the first wave of cuts that we are likely to see in higher education. What kind of message does this send to future generations of educators? It seems absurd that in a week when the Government has done so much soul-searching over widening participation, it is putting up new barriers for people wishing to study.

“Understanding the cost of education is very different to knowing its value. We know the power education has to transform lives: however, we cannot just cram more students into our universities at a time when the staff required to teach and nurture them are being cut.”

Ms Hunt said the news would come as a “hammer blow” to staff and students, and make it harder for the sector to attract people from poorer and non-traditional backgrounds.

“Students need to be able to study locally, but the sad reality is that there are areas of the country where certain subjects are not available any more due to cuts and closures,” she said. “Without investment in education, the recession will be longer and will blight more lives, yet this Government continues to make cuts.”

The National Union of Students was also critical.

Wes Streeting, president of the NUS, said it was “disgraceful” that the quality of university teaching was going to be compromised by significant budget cuts.

“Any savings should be made from peripheral areas, not from the bread and butter of teaching itself,” he said.

The reductions “will inevitably lead to cuts in teaching staff, which will mean larger seminar, class and lecture sizes, and a lower standard of education for students who are being plunged into tens of thousands of pounds of debt by fees”, he added.

“In a time of economic crisis, it is essential that we maintain high standards in higher education so that people can improve their skills or retrain to meet the changing demands of the labour market. Higher education plays a critical role in mitigating the effects of economic recession, and must not be short-changed,” Mr Streeting said.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said funding for universities was at record levels and that budgets were still higher than last year.

“It is right that when the nation is tightening its belt in a tough fiscal environment, we ask the higher education sector to do the same,” she said.

“These are savings we asked the sector to make back in May, working alongside Hefce, and are small against the record investment we have made over the past ten years, equalling £7.5 billion this year alone.”

The Government has published more details of the 10,000 extra university places it will provide this autumn.

In a letter to Hefce on 23 July, David Lammy, the Higher Education Minister, said the priority areas for the places, which will be part-funded, are:

Biological and related health sciences (excluding psychology, sports science and those that are primarily practice-based)

Physical sciences (excluding geography)

Mathematical and computer science

Engineering

Technology

Economics

Business studies

rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com

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