Historic and modern foundations face cuts

Hefce savings drive targets cash for old buildings and two-year degrees. Rebecca Attwood reports

July 30, 2009

The universities of Oxford and Cambridge could lose millions of pounds a year allocated to their historic buildings as the sector grapples with multimillion-pound cuts demanded by the Government.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England is consulting on how to reduce the higher education budget by £180 million in 2010-11, savings that were demanded by John Denham, the former Universities Secretary, in May.

Last week, Hefce published details of the £65 million that has been cut from universities' teaching budgets in 2009-10 - a figure that the University and College Union said equated to 1,500 full-time staff.

Other proposals for saving cash include the withdrawal of a £40 million fund designed to help with the high costs of maintaining historic buildings - a measure that would have the biggest impact on Oxbridge.

The University of Oxford currently receives £5.1 million a year from the fund, and the University of Cambridge gets £4.2 million.

"In a time of pressure on public finances, it was open to question how high a priority should be given to targeted support for old and historic buildings," says Hefce's document, Review of Teaching Funding: Consultation on Targeted Allocations.

It also plans to end a special stream of funding for universities offering postgraduate taught masters in subjects including business, the humanities and education.

In addition, it is closing the £24 million pool to support institutions offering foundation degrees. "We are already close to meeting the 2010-11 target of 100,000 foundation-degree students," Hefce states.

Universities offering foundation degrees were critical of the plan.

Ian Tunbridge, deputy vice-chancellor of Thames Valley University, said: "The additional funding was awarded to support the additional costs of running the employer-linked activities that are an integral part of foundation degrees. This level of employer involvement is much deeper than for any other form of vocational higher education, and it will be extremely difficult to maintain this without the additional funding."

Under the cuts to the teaching budget announced for 2009-10, every university will lose the same proportion of funding. This means that the institutions that receive the biggest teaching grants will suffer the biggest drops.

Nine universities face cuts of more than £1 million this autumn, with The Open University losing £2.5 million, the University of Manchester £1.4 million and the University of Leeds £1.3 million (for a full list, see story on our website at http://tinyurl.com/nsfqzn).

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "Funding for universities is at record levels, and overall their budget this year will still be higher than last - even after taking these efficiency savings into account.

"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."

Hefce's consultation period closes on 14 October.



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