Scots research funding up as teaching cash squeezed

Budget rise of 3.4 per cent aids knowledge transfer, but academic job cuts are feared. Tariq Tahir reports

March 20, 2008

Scottish universities will see their research budgets increase three times more than institutions south of the border, but a squeeze on teaching funding raises the possibility of job losses.

The Scottish Funding Council has announced that the sector will receive £1.1 billion for 2008-09, shared among the country's 19 institutions.

Total funding is up 3.4 per cent on 2007-08, and all institutions will see an increment. But for seven the increase will be below the current 2.7 per cent inflation rate.

The biggest winners are the UHI Millennium Institute, with a 6.1 per cent increase, and the University of St Andrews, which will get 5.5 per cent more. Among those with a below-inflation increase are the University of Abertay Dundee, which will receive just 1.3 per cent more, and Napier University, which gets 1.7 per cent more.

Of the £1.1 billion allocated, research and knowledge transfer activity gets £9 million, an increase of 6.2 per cent, but the figure is down on the 8.5 per cent rise Scotland's universities saw this year.

Within the research allocation, the universities will see their knowledge transfer budgets rise by 23.3 per cent and there will be 9.7 per cent extra to allow for an increase in postgraduate students.

The boost to knowledge transfer reflects a Scottish National Party election pledge to help universities play a greater role in boosting Scotland's relatively sluggish economic growth.

John McClelland, the SFC chairman, said: "The council recognises the priority the Government has put on knowledge transfer and I am pleased there is a significant increase in funding for this area. This will help institutions focus more on innovation and the development of links with business."

However, Scotland's universities do not fare as well when it comes to their teaching budget, which will increase in line with inflation, or 2.7 per cent, to £689.8 million.

The squeeze on teaching reflects the tight settlement that emerged from last year's Scottish Spending Review, which gave the sector a £30 million rise over three years - £138 million short of what requested.

Scottish universities are facing cost pressures, including rising energy bills and the cost of funding the final year of the national pay settlement for academic staff.

The SFC admitted that there was likely to be a "streamlining" of staff levels, but said that this reflected the SNP's commitment to achieving public-sector efficiency savings of 1.5 per cent.

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