Scots funding council to get its WSUMs right

October 22, 1999

The Scottish Further Education Funding Council has unveiled radical plans for distributing funds.

Colleges have been unhappy with the retrospective Scottish Office funding system that was based on student numbers from two years previously. It centred on student activity, calculated according to the number of 40-hour modular study programmes, and was weighted to take account of different costs.

But the colleges complained that the Scottish Office's refusal to fund the so-called Weighted Student Units of Measurement (WSUMs) at a standard price led to instability and unpredictability.

The SFEFC has now promised to introduce a standard WSUM price, which it will set annually, taking account of the price for the previous year, as well as projected inflation and any required efficiency gain.

The council has also promised to axe the present system of "grossing up" tuition fees. This meant that 90 per cent of the sector's total fee income was redistributed on the basis of student activity. A 1997 funding methodology review warned that this redistribution gave individual colleges little incentive to increase fee income.

The SFEFC says it is now considering a system that will achieve fairness in college funding in whatever context emerges from the Cubie inquiry into student finance. It plans to consult colleges next year on the relative weightings for different subjects and the SUM prices for full-time further education and higher education courses.

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