Scots fear budget reforms upheaval

April 20, 2001

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council seems determined to plough on with teaching and research funding reforms despite widespread calls for a moratorium while a strategic review of the sector is carried out.

Submissions for two consultation exercises are in. A Shefc spokeswoman said that the council would consider the responses before deciding how to proceed. But she added: "The council has indicated that it expects to begin implementing revised funding methods from 2002-03."

Determining the 2002-03 funding round begins this autumn. This would mean council members making decisions by early summer. But many critics are urging Shefc to back off in light of a promised ministerial review.

The Association of University Teachers Scotland's submission says the review launch will be prejudiced if Shefc has already taken key decisions on resources.

It warns that institutions face budget upheaval if teaching and research funding streams change just as the research assessment exercise results come through.

Universities Scotland has pointedly not made submissions to the consultations and sent brief, trenchant letters instead. Much of the concern over teaching funding has focused on Shefc proposals to streamline subject groupings.

Shefc said there would be meetings with Universities Scotland representatives "to help resolve some of the more difficult issues". But Universities Scotland convener Sir Stewart Sutherland, principal of Edinburgh University, has warned that the principals are unlikely to be able to bring forward proposals as they feel the key problem is the lack of evidence underpinning Shefc's suggested changes.

Shefc has floated the prospect of no funding for 3a and 3b departments in the wake of the RAE in order to maintain funding for higher-rated departments. This could inhibit the development of world-class research in areas of strategic and economic importance to Scotland, said Sir Stewart. There was a strong case for more funding to allow Shefc to continue to support 3-rated departments, he added.

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