Three Welsh higher education institutions have had to be protected from damaging funding cuts with special "safety net" grants, the Welsh Funding Council announced this week.
The sector's 13 higher education institutions have benefited from a 3.9 per cent increase in funding to Pounds 250.82 million for 1999-2000, but moves to level historical funding inequalities and cuts in teacher training numbers have dealt a blow to three of the institutions.
Funding allocations announced this week for the University of Wales Bangor; the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff; and Trinity College Carmarthen have had to be shored up with special payments. This was to avoid real-terms cuts falling below the 1 per cent danger zone. The Dearing report said institutions should not have to cope with cuts of more than 1 per cent.
The three institutions will receive a funding increase of 1.5 per cent, against an inflation rate of 2.5 per cent.
John Andrews, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, said that institutions had been hit by a reduction in the government's quota for teacher training places. Institutions with large numbers of students in primary teacher education degrees suffer most.
Institutions have also suffered from a levelling-off of the average funding per student. The worst-hit institutions, said Professor Andrews, had been historically over-funded in some subject areas.
The funding settlement is an improvement on previous years, said Professor Andrews. There will be no increases in full-time and sandwich undergraduate numbers because Welsh Office targets have been met. But there will be a 1.5 per cent increase in two-year sub-degree courses and a 3 per cent increase in part-time student numbers.
The University of Glamorgan, Swansea Institute of Higher Education and University of Wales College, Newport, have won the lion's share of funds for outreach work and widening participation, Professor Andrews said. Cardiff University saw the biggest funding increase, by 6.16 per cent to Pounds 56 million, largely as a result of increased quality-related research funding.
Further funding increases, indicated by the Welsh Office for the next two years, will depend on the approval of the new Welsh Assembly. But Professor Andrews said that higher education expansion has not been a contested issue in the devolution debate.
"The contribution that higher education has made to wealth creation in Wales has helped the sector establish itself," he said.