RAYMOND Robertson, Scottish Office minister for education, has hinted that the Government may be about to call a halt to higher education funding cuts in the Budget.
Mr Robertson, speaking at the Scotcat (Scottish Credit Accumulation and Transfer) conference on the future of Scottish higher education, organised by the Higher Education Quality Council and Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals, said there seemed to be consensus that higher education expansion should no longer be a top priority for public funding.
Instead, most of the key players seemed to accept that students should in future make a greater contribution to tuition costs. "We shall all, of course, need to wait to see what Dearing recommends about long-term funding," he said.
"In the meantime, I am very well aware that there have been calls for the Government to impose a moratorium on further efficiency gains on higher education in the current public expenditure survey in order to give the sector a breathing space before Dearing reports. We are considering this argument very carefully."
Richard Shaw, chairman of COSHEP, said it was hopeful that Mr Robertson had mentioned the calls for a moratorium. "But COSHEP would strongly urge ministers to actually deliver. The pressure on institutions and our staff is immense."