Teaching infrastructure cash is below Hefce's own target

February 7, 2008

The three-year funding allocation for teaching infrastructure announced this week falls £400 million short of sums recommended by a report prepared for the funding council itself.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England announced £2.4 billion in capital funding to be distributed in the period 2008-11. Of this, £1.6 billion is for research infrastructure and £1.086 billion is for "teaching and learning", including money for lecture halls, laboratories and IT equipment.

Hefce lauded the announcement, saying the funding would enhance the quality of learning and teaching for students. But funding for teaching infrastructure - about £366 million a year - is well below the £500 million a year recommended in a study commissioned by Hefce.

In 2006, JM Consulting produced a report for Hefce on the future needs for capital funding in higher education. It cautioned: "There are still significant levels of remedial investment required in the infrastructure for teaching and research ... now of the order of £5 billion across the sector."

A more recent analysis by Universities UK, Spending Review 2007: Securing the Future, said there was "a long way to go" to clear a backlog of remedial investment and to correct underfunding of capital projects, especially in teaching. It said the sector's current infrastructure backlog was about £5 billion, of which two thirds was for teaching and learning. UUK accepted the findings of the JM Consulting report recommending investment of £500 million a year for teaching and learning.

The funding announcement coincides with the departure of Liz Beaty as Hefce's director for teaching and learning, and the revelation that she will not be replaced.

Her duties will be taken on by John Selby, who becomes director for education and participation, cutting the directorate to three.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "We welcome the £1 billion that Hefce is putting into (teaching and learning) over the next three years, but on paper this falls below the amounts requested by the heads of universities.

"It leaves institutions, particularly those needing to upgrade teaching laboratories in science and engineering, and those pioneering new methods of learning, well short of the investment they need."

Steve Egan, deputy chief executive of Hefce, said: "The higher education sector meets its capital needs from a number of different sources. Over the past few years, government capital grants account for about one third of all capital spending. The capital grants we have just announced will make a major contribution to a continuing and significant improvement in the quality of the higher education estate."

john.gill@tsleducation.com

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