Winners and losers in ‘good settlement’ for English sector

Hefce chief hails 3.3% gain in 2008-09 budget, but 59 institutions will see cuts. Phil Baty reports

March 6, 2008

Fifty-nine higher education institutions in England have received a cut to their government funding for the next academic year, while 71 will see inflation-beating increases.

Ten institutions, including the universities of Lancaster, Warwick and Sussex, have suffered a cut to their 2008-09 funding allocation in cash terms. A further 49 have received a real-terms cut as a result of receiving a funding increase below the 2.75 per cent inflation rate.

(See Summary of the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s grants, 2008-09 .xls document attached)

David Eastwood, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, said that despite the “variations in outcomes between institutions”,?England’s higher education sector as a whole had received a “good settlement”.

A total of £7.48 billion has been allocated, representing a 3.3 per cent increase on the previous academic year. Professor Eastwood said that this gain “reflects the Government’s recognition of the crucial role played by higher education in securing the country’s economic and social wellbeing and international competitiveness”.

He said it was particularly “encouraging” that the Government was committed to “maintaining the unit of funding over the next three years” which will enable stable ­future planning without discouraging innovation.

The allocations include £4.63 billion for teaching, representing a 4.1 per cent increase on last year. This sum includes £364 million for widening participation, and an additional 24,000 full-time equivalent student numbers have been provided for. The research budget was increased by 2.9 per cent to £1.46 million, only slightly above the 2.75 inflation figure.

Professor Eastwood acknowledged that the allocations “show variations in outcomes”, reflecting institutions’ success, or lack of success, in attracting funding for additional student numbers, widening participation and in research.

In addition, he said, it shows “the extent to which [institutions] have been affected by the implementation of the Government’s policy on funding for students aiming for equivalent or lower qualifications” than qualifications they already hold. Some £25 million has been cut from ELQ students for 2008-09, as part of a mandated £100 million in savings to be phased in over three years.

Birkbeck, University of London, among the institutions most badly affected by the ELQ policy because of the high level of mature students it takes, saw a funding increase of 4.8 per cent.

The Open University, which is also vulnerable to the impact of the new policy, saw a below-inflation increase of 2.4 per cent.

The biggest loser by a substantial margin was Writtle College, which saw a 15.7 per cent drop in its ­higher education grant, including an £800,000 cut in its funding for student numbers.

Anglia Ruskin was the next biggest loser, with a reduction in cash terms of 1.7 per cent, representing a £1 million cut to its teaching grant. The Courtauld Institute of Art and Leeds Trinity and All Saints saw cuts of 1.4 per cent and 1.1 per cent respectively.

As well as Lancaster, Sussex and Warwick, cuts were also suffered by the School of African and Oriental Studies, the University College for the Creative Arts and St Mary’s University College, which all suffered cuts of under 1 per cent.

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