Marine funding figures all at sea

July 5, 1996

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council has disputed claims that Scottish biology students face discrimination because it has cut funds to a national marine biological station.

Both SHEFC and the Higher Education Funding Council for England are reducing non-formula funding to the University Marine Biological Station Millport (UMBSM) on the Isle of Cumbrae, which was set up by London and Glasgow universities but is now used by around 30 institutions.

Station director, John Davenport, said that while HEFCE had approved the station's business plan for the funding mechanism to be changed over five years, SHEFC had not. It was imposing "draconian" cuts in its support from Pounds 100,000 this year to Pounds 41,000 next year, and zero in 1997/98. "We face the insane prospect in 1996/97 of having to charge Scottish students far more to use a facility sited in Scotland than we need to charge English or Welsh students," he said.

But David Wann, SHEFC's director of funding, said there seemed to be some misunderstanding about SHEFC's contribution. "It is Pounds 41,000 in 1996/97 and the figures for future years have not been decided. It should not be interpreted as zero," he said.

SHEFC and HEFCE do not formally approve business plans, but a HEFCE spokesman said: "We consider that the plan represents a sound attempt to explore the opportunities for increasing income with realistic financial assumptions."

HEFCE has produced funding figures for the next four years, dropping from Pounds 6,000 this year to Pounds 162,000 in 1996/97 and Pounds 100,000 in 1999, but has warned that these are merely indicative.

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