Welsh higher education college heads are demanding an explanation for funding cuts of up to 5 per cent in real terms.
They want to know why most former public sector institutions fared worse in allocations for 1996/97, announced last week, than constituent colleges of the University of Wales. And they want the Welsh Higher Education Funding Council to explain why the unit of resource for research has been protected at the expense of teaching.
The Committee of Heads of Welsh Colleges of Higher Education is seeking a meeting with funding council chiefs to examine the workings of the funding methodology and its impact on college grants.
Last week the funding council said cuts were largely due to institutions with many part-time courses having recruitment problems, along with the impact of falling target student numbers in primary initial teacher training. The result was that most higher education colleges received cash cuts of between 1.73 per cent and 3 per cent, while the constituent colleges faired relatively well with increases from 0.8 per cent to 5.87 per cent.
But John Williams, principal of the North East Wales Institute of Higher Education and chairman of the Committee of Heads, said further clarification of the funding system was required.
"We do not think that the initial teacher training and part-time element are a sufficient explanation for all the cuts. There have been dramatic swings in the average unit of council funding within certain subject categories which need explanation from the council. We also want to know why research has been protected when it was expected that the unit of resource would be reduced in line with teaching," he said.
Professor Williams said a meeting has also been arranged between college and university heads and union leaders to discuss the practicalities of staff salary increases.
"We will have to be looking for cost efficiencies, and pay increases could pose us with some problems," he added. Keith Robbins, chairman of the new Heads of Higher Education Wales, described the overall allocations, amounting to a 2 per cent cut in real terms, as "disappointing".
He added: "The severe reduction in capital funding projected for the next three years and the expectation that the Private Finance Initiative should fill the gap are major areas of concern."