Silence on funding rules does not mean assent

December 1, 1995

Graeme Davies is disingenuous in interpreting "the relative silence of the academic community over the current funding model as assent". Those of us who have suffered most from a system designed to cocoon historic universities like his from the realities of life in the 1990s, have been rather preoccupied with finding ways of managing the inequities produced by HEFCE policies.

He does at least remain consistent, in replaying that favourite old cracked record of his which blames those who cry "foul" - primarily universities and colleges which responded to government exhortations to raise participation rates by expanding on a fees-only basis - for their own predicament. He knows this will guarantee spirited applause from the v-cs in the Athenaeum.

Such arguments always conveniently ignore pre-expansion facts like the low level of funding suffered at the end of the past decade by those institutions he berates, especially, for example, the present and former large multi-discipline colleges of higher education.

They also choose to overlook relevant recurrent factors such as the cross subsidy from research to teaching, which we all know occurs in research-rich universities, however much this is denied. The present methodology seeks to preserve features of a dated elitist system of higher education. Only the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council in recent times has made a spirited attempt to incorporate factors more commensurate with the new ethos. Thus far, HEFCE has failed institutions like mine, and it is time the council did something about it.

Tony Wood

Vice chancellor

University of Luton

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