THE SCOTTISH Higher Education Funding Council is limiting cuts in next year's standard units of teaching funding to 2 per cent in real terms in a bid to help institutions cope with impending changes in student support.
The sector faces a real-terms cut of 2.75 per cent and SHEFC will next month announce institutions' individual allocations for 1998-99 from a Pounds 574 million budget. But its protection of teaching costs, which will generally rise by 0.75 per cent, will give colleges and universities some leeway to deal with the costs and problems of collecting tuition fees.
SHEFC has also earmarked around Pounds 14 million to underpin long-term change in the system. This includes a new grant scheme to maintain "institutional stability", aimed at institutions which have a high number of fees-only students, and would otherwise be hard hit by the shift to tuition fee income.
Overall, some 10 per cent of Scottish students are fees-only, but this can rise to more than 20 per cent in some institutions and disciplines. SHEFC says it will develop the details of this transitional funding scheme in the course of next session in the light of information about student numbers.
The total number of funded student places for 1998-99 should be the same as this year, it says. But it has pledged that it will review its penalties for under-recruitment, "in view of the potential short-term variability in student flows which might result from changes to the student support regime".
Following guidance from the Scottish Office, SHEFC plans to widen the scope of its research development grant to allow it to target promising proposals from institutions which do not have an established track record. It is particularly keen to see collaborative proposals.
It will increase the research development grant, non-formula seedcorn support, which is not based on the research assessment exercise, by Pounds 1 million to Pounds 6.3 million.