RCA gets special fund deal

January 2, 1998

A funding council probe into specialist institutions has concluded that funding for the Royal College of Art will remain stable next year but will be cut by 5 per cent in 1999-2000.

The RCA and other institutions, such as the music colleges, the Institute of Education and Cranfield University, have been marked for special scrutiny by the Higher Education Funding Council for England as part of a review of 46 specialist institutions.

The review is led by Sir Stewart Sutherland, principal of Edinburgh University. According to HEFCE, the results of the study will be published later this month.

There had been fears at the RCA of much heavier cuts in its Pounds 5.7 million funding for teaching. The college recently sought to defend its expenditure by citing a survey that showed that more than 90 per cent of RCA graduates in recent years were employed in fields directly related to the course they undertook. The survey also highlighted the contribution RCA graduates made to the "culture" industry.

Christopher Frayling, rector of the RCA, said the 5 per cent cut would result in a new funding baseline for the "foreseeable future". He stressed, however, that complex calculations still to be carried out by HEFCE meant that the reduction was unlikely to translate directly into a 5 per cent cut on existing funding. Professor Frayling said: "There are some institutions that show up the inadequacies of any strictly formulaic approach to funding of higher education. We are delighted that this has been realised by HEFCE."

The music colleges, which had also feared cuts, are likely to have their funds maintained at least at current levels for three years. But the Royal College of Music, Royal Academy of Music, Royal Northern College of Music and Trinity College of Music hope that HEFCE might still consider increasing their funding to reflect the findings of a previous study into their funding and missions. The study, by a HEFCE-appointed team led by Sir John Tooley, former head of the Royal Opera House, suggested the conservatories were underfunded.

One college head said: "It is good that Sutherland has noted the strength of our case, but we would also like to see recognition of the high cost of providing the one-to-one teaching necessary for our students."

Peter Mortimore, director of the Institute of Education, said he was "delighted" that the institute has been recognised as a specialist institution by the council. However, Professor Mortimore said it is not clear what the financial impact of Sutherland will be because the results of the HEFCE review of the weighting for teaching funds for education courses will not be known for a few months.

"We are pleased that Sutherland has recognised that we have been underfunded by at least Pounds 1 million a year, and we hope ways can be found to correct this deficit," Professor Mortimore said.

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