The heads of Scotland's 21 universities and colleges are drawing up plans to bring their financial difficulties into the public spotlight.
The Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals said last week's allocation from the Scottish Office made it plain that the financial stranglehold on higher education was to continue, and Scotland would be the loser.
In real terms, funding per student had been cut by more than per cent in the past six years, and the financial position for many institutions was precarious, it warned. "The sector will not be able to maintain its level of educational provision on the current levels of funding," said John Arbuthnott, convener of COSHEP and principal of Strathclyde University. "Cuts in staff and closure of departments and areas of activity may be inevitable."
Government funding of Pounds 535 million to the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, a drop of Pounds 7 million on the sum forecast, has been allocated as a single sum, encompassing both recurrent and capital funding.
Professor Arbuthnott warned that a drop in capital funding would affect maintenance and safety. "The Private Finance Initiative is simply inappropriate when applied to the majority of our basic capital needs. The Government's Private Finance Initiative is not going to solve the problems associated with the need for a new science building or upgrading or re-equipping a teaching block," he said.
Charles Brown, vice principal of Heriot-Watt University, said: "While it is disappointing to face further financial cuts, the settlement agreed between the Secretary of State for Scotland and SHEFC means that the Scottish university sector has fared reasonably well in relation to its counterparts in England and Wales."