Scots unis demand dialogue on reforms

March 2, 2001

Universities Scotland has called on the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council to back off from its controversial proposals on teaching funding and to work with the university principals on a fresh approach.

There has been widespread dismay over Shefc's consultation paper, with warnings that institutions and departments would be destabilised by its proposed revamping of subject funding groups and the reclassification of "fees-only" students.

A full meeting of Universities Scotland this week called on Shefc to join it in a task group to thrash out alternatives.

David Caldwell, director of Universities Scotland, said the principals backed a simplification of the 22 subject groups, but did not feel the Shefc proposals were based on sound evidence. "All they do is group subjects into a smaller number of groups and average the historic prices," he said.

The principals also support an end to the "fees-only" category of students for whom universities receive only tuition fees. But Mr Caldwell said it was "unfortunate" that Shefc had come up with only one option for achieving this.

Shefc set a consultation deadline of March 31, with a new funding system to be in place for 2002-03.

A Shefc spokesperson welcomed Universities Scotland's "constructive approach" but said Shefc had not yet decided how to proceed and would take into account all consultation responses.

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