Eight of the 13 Welsh university-level institutions have had to be safety-netted in the 1997/98 funding allocations announced this week by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. A ninth institution, the Welsh College of Music and Drama, escaped the net by only a few hundred pounds.
All will suffer 3 per cent cash cuts in allocations that impose a cash reduction of 1.8 per cent across the sector. Sir Philip Jones, chairman of HEFCW, said: "The council is under no illusions about the difficult period ahead for the higher education sector in Wales. Funding per student has been falling each year through the efficiency gains sought by the Welsh Office, but the 5 per cent gain required of the council in 1997/98 is the largest yet".
This is despite a marked improvement in Welsh performance in the research assessment excise.
The University of Wales, Cardiff, which did outstandingly well, suffers least but with a 1.26 per cent cash increase still has a real terms cut. Aberystwyth, which did badly, would have been cut by around 7 per cent but for Pounds 876,703 from the safety net.
John Andrews, chief executive of HEFCW, said capital cuts were mainly to blame, and that Welsh institutions had done better than English and Scottish counterparts before this year.
Keith Robbins, senior vice chancellor of the University of Wales and chair of the Committee of Heads of Welsh Higher Education Institutions, said the settlement meant a harsh review of staffing needs.
Both he and Deric Llywd Morgan, vice chancellor of Aberystwyth, blamed the Welsh Office rather than the HEFCW. "We have to hope that the Welsh Office look much more sympathetically upon higher education next year," said Professor Llywd Morgan.
Welsh institutions had been expecting heavy cuts since last December's public spending allocations. A deputation from the heads met Welsh MPs and peers last week to appeal for a moratorium on cuts pending the outcome of the Dearing inquiry.
Lynn Williams, secretary of HHEW, said they had received a positive response, although nobody was making any promises so close to the general election.
The table of Higher Education Funding Council For Wales Grant Allocations 1997/98 is not available on this database.