Reform has failed to erase funding gap between old and new

December 13, 2002

Higher education reforms over the past decade have had little impact on funding inequalities between institutions or on the structure of the sector, an independent study has concluded.

Changing the names and status of former polytechnics has not eroded distinctions or funding imbalances between old and new universities. And teaching quality ratings have had no influence on funding council grants, according to a report on the study by David Stiles, strategy and marketing lecturer at Cardiff Business School.

The only impact that reforms have had is to link research quality scores to block grants. But this has benefited old universities more than new and has widened the funding gap, the report says.

The study shows that funding councils have been forced to adopt conservative strategies to maintain stability in the face of financial constraints.

As a result, little has changed in the funding of teaching and research since the restructuring in the early 1990s, despite Lord Dearing's 1997 review.

The research assessment exercise carried financial rewards and promoted competition. But this has done little to change the institutional pecking order.

The report says: "Research funding methods continued to favour institutions already enjoying research track records. Maintenance of the existing research infrastructure was a funding priority during the decade, rather than the development of new institutional research stars."

Dr Stiles says that the lack of real change over the past decade does not augur well for the government's forthcoming review of higher education.


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