V-cs put case for cash to keep UK competitive

February 13, 2004

The state must spend an extra £8.8 billion on higher education over the next two years to maintain the nation's competitiveness, according to Universities UK.

The sum, which would provide for England and Northern Ireland only, was set out this week by UUK in its submission to this year's spending review, the results of which will be known this summer. It says the figures are independently costed and that the sector can provide demonstrable achievements in return for additional funding.

In cash terms, the bill comes to £4.14 billion in recurrent funding, and £3.75 billion in capital funding. With an additional £900 million to combat inflation, the total bill comes to £8.8 billion.

Ivor Crewe, president of UUK and vice-chancellor of Essex University, said:

"Our vision of a successful, well-funded sector of international standing and excellence is of vital importance to the success of the country as a whole. Additional public investment in higher education is an investment in the nation's long-term economic and social prosperity."

Top-up fees - which the government estimates will eventually raise an additional £1 billion for higher education after they are introduced in 2006 - have been excluded from the UUK calculations.

It argues that their introduction will be phased and any extra income generated in the first year will be eaten up by start-up and administrative costs attached to their collection - and the funding of bursary schemes.

While British higher education is becoming less reliant on the public purse, UUK argues the expansion of higher education to meet the government's target of 50 per cent of young people in higher education means that further public investment is essential.

For the first time, UUK has split its submission to the spending review into sections relating to England and Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Figures for Scotland and for Wales are due to be finalised later this month.

In England and Northern Ireland, UUK is demanding cash to:

  • Restore core funding for teaching, cut in 2002-03 to increase the widening participation premium (£568 million recurrent)
  • Restore core funding for research that was removed from departments rated 3a and 4 in the 2001 research assessment exercise (£330 million recurrent)
  • Recruit additional students to take account of population growth and the government's 50 per cent target (£820 million recurrent)
  • Pay an access premium for the non-traditional students included in this expansion (£254 million recurrent)
  • Modernise academic pay to allow the introduction of more flexible reward structures (£602 million recurrent).

Infrastructure

Huge further investment is needed in teaching and research infrastructure.

UUK has outlined the second phase of a capital investment programme that it deferred from its submission to the previous spending review two years ago.

It is calling for more money to:

  • Build classrooms and teaching labs (£2.23 billion)
  • Maintain existing teaching facilities (£848 million recurrent)
  • Construct new research labs (£1.52 billion)
  • Maintain existing research facilities (£578 million recurrent)
  • Investment in knowledge transfer and community links (£140 million recurrent).

Economic growth

In common with the UUK submissions to be directed at the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, the bid then outlines the success of British higher education as a whole.

UUK argues that higher education contributes to economic growth, is well managed and produces a large number of highly employable graduates.

It highlights the nation's strong research performance, and the way higher education contributes to the health service, business and the regions. The success of UK universities in attracting overseas students is also noted.

UUK then outlines the cost pressures and the UK-wide investment needs in human and physical resources.

Despite receiving £3.7 billion in the spending review two years ago, the settlement was less than half that needed by the sector for 2003-04 to 2005-06, UUK says.

Its submission states: "The financial position of the higher education sector continues to deteriorate. At the same time, institutions face substantial and increasing cost pressures. Current resources are inadequate for the sector to maintain the range and quality of its current activities.

The Standing Conference of Principals also made its submission to the spending review this week based on the same figures as UUK.

Dianne Willcocks, chair of Scop and principal of York St John College, said: "If we are serious in our shared aspirations for a high quality and expanded higher education system, coupled with greater recognition of teaching excellence and knowledge transfer, there is an excellent case for further public investment in these areas. It is already recognised that additional income from tuition fees cannot solve this problem alone."

alison.goddard@thes.co.uk

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments