Shefc formula raises grants

March 22, 2002

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council has made its allocations more selective in the wake of the research assessment exercise, but not as selective as many institutions feared.

It pledged to make any change "manageable", and all institutions have won a cash-terms rise in core funding, ranging from 2 per cent to 13 per cent, and averaging almost 6 per cent. Shefc's total £724 million funding package for 2002-03 is a 4 per cent cash increase over last year.

Shefc gave warning that it was unlikely to be able to fund 3-rated departments if there were large research improvements. Since the last RAE, Scottish research has improved by 18 per cent, compared with 15 per cent in England.

Last month the Scottish Executive produced an extra £25 million for research, nearly three times the equivalent of England's award. The main research grant has risen by 14 per cent to £133 million.

Extra formula funding gives priority to departments rated 5* and 5. It also covers departments rated 4 and "rising 3As" - those that have improved since the 1996 RAE in institutions that have historically lacked large research funds.

Shefc has also set aside £2 million to support new and developing research at institutions without substantial RAE funding. The big overall winners are St Andrews and Stirling universities, with rises of about 11 per cent. Awards for the two art schools also rose substantially. There is £666,000 safety netting for Strathclyde university, and £24,000 for Queen Margaret University College, whose research improvements trailed other institutions'.

A Universities Scotland spokesperson said Shefc had made a "fairly good job of addressing the situation" caused by the RAE. "It has managed to recognise increases in internationally competitive research while ensuring that ladders haven't been pulled up in front of developing departments."

Shefc has reduced top-slicing after pressure from Universities Scotland, and funding for teaching has increased by 4 per cent to £528 million. This includes an extra 400 full-time equivalent student places, mainly to widen participation through part-time courses. The wider access premium, to help institutions retain students from non-traditional backgrounds, will rise from £3 million to £4 million.

Committee calls for right to well-funded lifelong learning for all

All Scots should have a right to lifelong learning with funding equivalent to that for a four-year degree, the Scottish Parliament's enterprise and lifelong learning committee has said.
The committee this week unveiled an interim report as part of its lifelong learning inquiry.

The all-party committee is proposing a national lifelong learning system led by individual learners rather than by bureaucracy and institutions. "We want everyone to be given an entitlement to lifelong learning, which they can call on throughout their lives," convener Alex Neil said.

"It is perhaps not too fanciful to imagine in the future that everyone in Scotland would possess a 'lifelong learning smartcard' that would contain details of their entitlement, whether used or not, and their qualifications."

Entitlements would be based on the new Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, which unites all mainstream Scottish qualifications, from basic education to academic and work-based learning. The interim report is not prescriptive, but it contains "potential recommendations" to be debated at a convention next month. A final report is expected in June.

The report suggests that there should ultimately be a single funding system for all post-school learning providers, but it acknowledges that it is too early to merge the Scottish higher and further education funding councils. It suggests that as a first step there could be a single funding system for courses up to higher national diploma level.

Deputy convener Annabel Goldie said: "I should emphasise that we cannot propose a blank cheque for lifelong learning, and that our proposals are designed to be budget-neutral."

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