Ministers urged to rethink funding

September 16, 2005

Ministers must ensure that UK researchers are funded at the same levels as their overseas competitors, the new head of the country's vice-chancellors'

umbrella body, said this week.

Drummond Bone, vice-chancellor of Liverpool University, also urged the Government to set UK visa charges for foreign students at no higher a level than those levied by other countries.

In his inaugural speech as president of Universities UK, he called on the Government to create the conditions in which universities can compete on a par with their overseas rivals in research and in the market to recruit the best international students.

In a keynote speech to the annual meeting of vice-chancellors in London, Professor Bone, said that universities needed to "secure a better environment" if they were to compete internationally.

Spelling out that UUK would continue to press the Government to reverse its decision to increase visa charges for overseas students, he said: "Our ability to recruit the ablest students from around the world, and to have a level playing field for our research, is vital to our intellectual strength, the character of our institutions, and our reputation overseas."

But Professor Bone also urged the Government to let universities "get on with the job".

He called for a period of "stability" in both government higher education policy and funding ahead of the introduction of variable tuition fees next year.

Professor Bone, who succeeds Ivor Crewe - his counterpart at Essex - as UUK president, said: "We have a successful university system, but just as the UK's economy needs stability to grow, so does the higher education sector after what has been a turbulent few years."

The heart of UUK's message to the Government ahead of the Treasury's Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) in 2007 would be that the unit of resource for universities must be maintained, he said.

"It's early in the (CSR) process, but UUK will be highlighting the clear need to maintain the unit of resource.

"This is crucial for both teaching and research and to provide the stable environment that will enable universities' success," he said.

"Capital funding for our teaching infrastructure - the fabric of our buildings, libraries, lecture theatres - is also likely to be a priority in our submission."

But Professor Bone also used his speech to underline that UUK would not seek to force institutions to reach consensus over policy issues.

He said: "There are many different markets for higher education, so it is appropriate that we have a diversity of institutions meeting the needs of those markets. We can recognise this while preserving and enhancing the strengths of UUK."

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