Shefc rejigs funding plan

February 15, 2002

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council is to launch a modified version of its controversial teaching funding scheme in the coming academic year. But there are fears that some institutions will face cuts, despite Shefc's admission that it is still seeking "more robust evidence" on teaching costs.

Shefc was slated by the Scottish Parliament's enterprise and lifelong learning committee for failing to have a "sound empirical basis" for the new funding formula.

Calculations based on last year's figures suggest some institutions could lose up to 1.5 per cent of their budgets, with others winning increases of up to 2.4 per cent.

Shefc will look again at the potential impact on the basis of current figures and says it will try to avoid "unnecessary turbulence".

It will announce any transitional arrangements necessary to ensure annual budget changes are manageable when it issues the 2002-03 funding allocations next month.

But a Universities Scotland spokesperson said: "We are concerned that we are still going to be seeing institutions losing money for no good reason."

It did not want to see any institution become a net loser in the absence of a good evidence base, he said.

There has been general agreement that there needs to be a scaling-down of Shefc's 22 subject groups for teaching funding. But there was widespread dismay last year when Shefc proposed having only six groups, with critics claiming that some institutions faced budget cuts of 14 per cent.

Shefc has now established 13 subject groups, backed by an extra £5.7 million for teaching funding in clinical subjects, teacher education, business studies, pharmacy, the humanities, communications and languages.

The US spokesman said: "Compared to what we were facing sector-wide, this is a relief. The option they have taken is the closest to the one we would like to see them taking. But we still don't see a clear reason for all the changes."

Anxiety has been compounded by Shefc's continuing silence over the funding implications of the research assessment exercise. Institutions fear that they will be less able to tolerate even small changes in teaching funding alongside anticipated research funding cuts.

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