STUDENTS and not the government are funding the bulk of a Pounds 280 million cash boost for universities that still leaves institutions with an overall per capita cut.
Claims by the government this week that, as part of the comprehensive spending review, it has increased funding for universities in 1999-2000 from Pounds 4.8 billion to nearly Pounds 5.1 billion, a rise of 5.7 per cent, are bogus.
This is because in 1999-2000 students will contribute an estimated Pounds 250 million in fees which mean a saving to the government. On top of this the government will net Pounds 100 million by not paying maintenance grants. While the government says it is ploughing in Pounds 280 million students will therefore directly or indirectly pay out Pounds 350 million. This is Pounds 70 million more than the increase announced for higher education.
And, despite the extra money, universities still face a 1 per cent efficiency gain in 1999-2000. Inflation and the cost of funding an estimated 35,000 extra students whittles the 5.7 per cent cash increase down to an estimated 0.8 per cent decrease. Education secretary David Blunkett confirmed the cut in a letter on the CSR to Martin Harris, chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals. Mr Blunkett said the efficiency saving would be "no more than 1 per cent".
University research receives a Pounds 1.4 billion boost over three years. Pounds 400 million of this is private money from Wellcome.
Further education colleges will receive a welcome Pounds 255 million more in 1999-2000, an 8.2 per cent cash increase. The sector's efficiency gain will be cut from 2.75 per cent in 1998-99 to 1 per cent. The college sector had asked to be on a par with universities.