SCOTTISH higher education faces an "unmitigated tragedy" if the Government does not back off from the Tories' proposed spending plans, the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals has warned.
COSHEP has this week sent Scottish Office ministers its public expenditure survey statement for 1997 in a bid to ensure that when they come to divide the Scottish block this autumn, they stick to a policy of no more cuts.
December's block settlement effectively secured the moratorium on cuts which COSHEP had demanded in its last PES submission. But it also set out projected annual cuts of almost Pounds 530 million for 1998-99 and 1999-2000, which COSHEP says would be a 6 per cent cut in the first year, and possibly more in the second, depending on inflation.
"Cuts of that severity would do massive harm to the higher education sector and substantially impair the huge contribution higher education makes to the Scottish economy," the statement says.
"Future prospects for inward investment would be threatened, institutional redundancies would follow and, for the first time, the possibility of whole institutions becoming insolvent could be in prospect."
Richard Shaw, COSHEP convenor and Paisley University principal, said COSHEP last year convinced Government that Scottish higher education was a success.
"We stand on the threshold of a new beginning for Scotland with a Government committed to assigning high priority to education," he said. "We also await the outcome of the Dearing inquiry, It would be a tragedy if the capacity of Scottish higher education to contribute to future developments were undermined by the funding cuts indicated by the previous administration."