Scots in joint bid for extra HE cash

September 19, 2003

The staff, students and principals of Scotland's higher education institutions have joined together to demand an extra £100 million a year to prevent Scotland slipping behind its competitors.

Universities Scotland, the Association of University Teachers Scotland and the National Union of Students Scotland have issued a joint statement saying higher education underpins the country's economic strength, cultural wellbeing and cultural vitality.

But it warns that higher education is "slipping down the priority list" with investment rising more slowly than the growth in Scotland's total funding. "At the same time, our major competitors invest more public money per student in higher education than we do."

This is the second time the three organisations have lobbied government jointly, the first being to urge the Scottish Executive to implement in full the recommendations of the 1999 Cubie report on student funding.

They want to see an extra £59 million a year within two years to restore higher education to its previous share of the overall Scottish budget. Within five years, funding must rise by a further 5 per cent (about £43 million) to match funding levels of key countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Universities Scotland this week made its bid for the extra cash to the Scottish Parliament's enterprise and culture committee.

Bill Stevely, convener of Universities Scotland and principal of Robert Gordon University, told the committee the funding could be met from the Scottish Executive's recently revealed multimillion pound underspend. He said: "The scope is there to provide what we need without having to rob nursery schools to do it."

Universities Scotland also pledged that institutions would work more collaboratively to make the most of new investment. Professor Stevely criticised moves towards increasingly selective research funding, saying it was beyond belief to suggest 4-rated departments were not excellent.

David Bleiman, AUT assistant general secretary, said there had been alarm in Scotland over England's unilaterally proposed 6* rating. There was no Scottish demand for a further ratchet to funding selectivity, but it was possible the label would be used in Scotland to avoid loss of prestige.

According to Sir Graeme Davies, principal of Glasgow University, Scottish higher education is building inclusive excellence, while England's white paper is promoting "divisive excellence" that would ultimately be less powerful.

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