Research stars may stay away from Welsh universities in the coming years because of poor funding levels for the sector, a senior official at the principality's funding council warned this week.
David Blaney, director of strategic development at the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, said a "tight settlement" in the Comprehensive Spending Review meant that funding increases for Welsh universities over the next two years may not keep pace with inflation.
"Research stars will not be encouraged to come to Wales if we have a funding gap (with England) that persists for too long. I think it is quite possible that it could happen. It will also depend on how Welsh institutions do in the research assessment exercise."
The funding increases for Welsh higher education institutions for 2008-09, which were unveiled this week, have not kept pace with inflation.
The principality's 12 higher education institutions received £357 million - an increase of just 2.49 per cent over their 2007-08 funding against HEFCW's inflation figure of 2.75 per cent.
The money allocated to teaching was £268 million, a rise of 2.47 per cent over the previous year. Funding for research climbed by 2.75 per cent to £67 million.
Dr Blaney said: "It (the funding announcement) responds to the settlement we had from the Welsh Assembly Government. The Comprehensive Spending Review resulted in what we defined as a tight settlement. Over the three-year period, it will struggle to keep pace with inflation. It is not so bad this year. In future years, increases could be sub-inflation."
The allocation for teaching conducted in the Welsh language received a 4.99 per cent boost between 2007-08 and 2008-09, while that for widening access crept up by 0.77 per cent.
Dr Blaney said the increase for teaching in Welsh was higher than that for widening access because institutions were offering more courses in Welsh that were eligible for the funding but they had not taken on as many students who qualified for the widening access payments.
Eleven of the 12 higher education institutions in Wales received below-inflation funding rises. Only Cardiff, whose allocation was 3.09 per cent above the previous year's, saw any real-terms gain. The smallest increases went to the University of Wales, Lampeter, which got a 1.12 per cent rise, and the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, which received 0.32 per cent.
|Welsh funding allocation, 2008-09|
|Institution||Teaching (£)||QR (£)||Widening access (£)||Total (£)||% change|
|University of Wales Institute, Cardiff||24,631,153||1,017,868||461,467||26,982,003||2.29|
|University of Glamorgan||47,023,681||1,1,496||1,494,7||51,692,545||2.25|
|North East Wales Institute of Higher Education||14,365,493||-||384,653||15,250,960||2.23|
|Swansea Metropolitan University||14,177,937||-||357,944||14,919,797||2.16|
|University of Wales, Newport||17,583,037||354,910||815,664||19,379,6||2.12|
|Trinity College Carmarthen||5,064,720||-||106,597||5,699,321||1.84|
|University of Wales, Lampeter||4,534,758||1,258,750||150,857||6,333,630||1.12|
|Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies||246,322||-||-||246,322||0.32|
|Note: totals do not tally exactly because figures have been rounded up and some columns have been excluded.|