Institutions risk bankruptcy

March 29, 1996

Some Scottish higher education institutions will be bankrupt by the end of the century unless funding cuts are reversed, the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals has warned.

This follows the latest allocations from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, which have slashed teaching budgets by 3 per cent in real terms, and research by 2.75 per cent.

John Arbuthnott, convener of COSHEP and principal of Strathclyde University, has called on Government "to prevent the worst happening" by maintaining funding at current levels until Sir Ron Dearing's inquiry can sort out the funding crisis in the longer term. Any proposals Sir Ron made for reform would not take effect much before the year 2000, he said.

"By then, some of our institutions will be insolvent if there is no interim relief. The prospect of job losses has become more inevitable, but these will not be confined to institutions. Other employment sectors will be affected."

David Bleiman of the Association of University Teachers Scotland said it was a very damaging settlement, axing funds for capital projects which would now have to be financed from the teaching and research budget, and abandoning SHEFC's own central initiatives which could no longer be afforded.

"For the long term, perhaps the biggest concern is that the Government's attack on student financial support is beginning to show through in problems of under-enrolment in some institutions. Up till now, demand for higher education in Scotland has been buoyant, but that demand can be reduced by fear of student poverty."

The worst-hit institution, St Andrew's College of Education, whose intakes are fixed by the Scottish Office, had already planned for last year's cuts, and is now facing a further budget cut of 4.6 per cent.

"The quality of teachers being produced has never been higher," said principal Bart McGettrick. "Sooner or later there will be a real crisis in teacher education which will undoubtedly affect Scottish education in general."

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