A call for tax changes forms the element of surprise in an otherwise familiar set of concerns expressed in the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals public spending submission, released this week.
In their bid for the 1997/98 spending round, the vice chancellors call for an amendment to the 1996 Finance Bill's introduction of VAT relief on buildings used for charity, extending relief to educational buildings. They say that zero-rating contracted-out services would also be a help to universities.
The vice chancellors reaffirm their support for the Dearing review, but are worried that a policy vacuum may occur while it takes place.
The bid is backed by a restatement of the contribution made by universities to national economic performance and to their communities. It identifies four priority areas: * halting slide in funding per student * investing in university staff * securing the capital base, including support for backlog maintenance and health and safety needs * disabled students.
Citing a projected 38 per cent fall in funding per student between 1989/90 and 1998/99, they call for the real value to be maintained - bringing institutions Pounds 170 million more than planned in 1997/98 and about Pounds 300 million in the next year.
Extra staff investment is needed to attract new blood, allow restructuring and early retirements, improve the career prospects of research staff, and update skills.
Arguing that hopes for the Private Finance Initiative were overstated and naive, the CVCP calls for a restoration of the planned Pounds 150 million capital cut for 1997/98 and further improvements in later years. It points to a Pounds 1 billion in maintenance backlog and the Pounds 100 million needed for technology-based learning systems. A further Pounds 170 million is requested for health and safety plus Pounds 50 million for improving facilities for the disabled.