Pounds 4 billion shopping list

May 29, 1998

Alan Thomson explains what the government's comprehensive spending review could offer further and higher education

Further and higher education have asked for an extra Pounds 4 billion during the present parliament in their comprehensive spending review bids. But they appear likely to have a valid claim for only about Pounds 2 billion.

This would include shares of the Pounds 3.5 billion in New Deal money, Pounds 800 million in tuition fees by 2000-01 and a net Pounds 250 million saved by 2000-01 through abolishing grants.

Higher education has the longer and more costly shopping list. The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals wants an additional Pounds 320 million a year for the next three years to halt the decline in funding per student.

On top of this, Tony Blair wants another 500,000 people in further and higher education by 2002. Higher education expects to absorb 70,000 of these new students and the CVCP estimates that this will cost universities an extra Pounds 265 million a year after five years's growth.

Then there are the sums required to keep the university research base up to scratch. The Office for Science and Technology says that an extra Pounds 500 million a year is needed to fund fully research stipends, research overheads and for new equipment and other infrastructure.

The total accumulated cost of these teaching and research demands by 2001-02 comes to nearly Pounds 2.5 billion.

The increase in 2001-02 alone would be more than Pounds 800 million. The total higher education funding council grant for 1998-99 is nearly Pounds 4.5 billion. An extra Pounds 800 million would be a 17 per cent increase.

CVCP chairman Martin Harris said: "I am reasonably optimistic that these claims will be recognised. I am confident that the contributions that universities make to teaching and lifelong learning on one hand and to the research that underpins the government's competitiveness and employment agendas on the other are well recognised in government."

Professor Harris's bottom line is significantly lower. It is that efficiency gains for existing students have to be kept to 1 per cent.

"That's the sine qua non of everything ... for existing students an efficiency gain of more than 1 per cent per annum is intolerable," he said. Additional students should be funded at the "proper unit of resource".

By 2001-02 further education, widely recognised as the "Cinderella sector", would like to have seen an additional Pounds 1.6 billion spent on colleges, Pounds 359 million in 1999-00, Pounds 540 million in 2000-01 and Pounds 715 million in 2001-02.

The Association of Colleges says that tuition costs are 80 per cent higher in universities, Pounds 4,650 compared with Pounds 2,570.

Colleges expect to absorb 430,000 of the prime minister's extra half million students. Roughly a fifth, Pounds 75 million, of the Pounds 359 million needed for 1999-00, would go to providing the additional students. This would rise to Pounds 335 million by 2001-02.

Colleges face a 2.75 per cent efficiency gain in 1998-99 compared with 0.75 per cent for universities and a 3 per cent real-terms increase for schools. The AoC says it needs Pounds 54 million in 1999-00, rising to Pounds 150 million in 2001-02, to limit efficiency gains to 1 per cent.

The AoC bid also contains money for student support. The association says that on average only Pounds 70 is spent a year on further education students compared with more than Pounds 2,000 in higher education.

AoC development director John Brennan said: "We have been very modest. We recognise that there are constraints on public funding and so we are not asking for the moon. This is the money needed to deliver what the government has said it wants to achieve."

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