Oxford agrees to subsidise college fee cut

March 5, 1999

Oxford University has bolstered its historical collegiate structure in the face of threatened centralism with a new agreement for the distribution of its colleges' income, writes Phil Baty.

The central administration at Oxford has agreed a short-term plan to subsidise a government-imposed cut to the income of the university's independent colleges. The agreement was reached between the vice-chancellor and the colleges this week. For 1999-2000 at least, the university will absorb half of the burden of a Pounds 656,000 reduction in the college fee income.

It was expected that Oxford would make its colleges face the full burden of the reduction.

Under plans laid out by the government last year, the college fee, worth about Pounds 18.6 million to Oxford, is to be phased out over ten years. Cuts of about Pounds 650,000 will be imposed every year for the decade.

Lost fee income will be partially replaced by a top-up to the university's block grant from the Higher Education Funding Council, worth about Pounds 10.7 million.

Major issues remain about the future distribution of the money and the university's collegiate structure, but long-term decisions have been deferred.

The move from direct college funding to the central block grant represents a major power shift towards the central administration.

The university will have full discretion over how it administers the Pounds 10.7 million grant.

HEFCE made clear in a guidance last year: "There is no implication that any particular sum should be allocated to any particular college ... nor even that the total sums relating to the incorporation of college fees should in aggregate be assigned to colleges."

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