Funding uncertainty in Scotland
In the wake of the UK government’s spending review and the Browne report, Scottish universities have been advised by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to prepare for funding cuts of 16 per cent. The higher education sector has responded to this warning by explaining some of the potential consequences, in the light of the sector’s limited options to find alternative sources of revenue. Universities Scotland has spoken about ‘severe damage to the sector’ while lecturers’ union UCU has predicted that up to 4,000 jobs could be lost – though I suspect that must be something of an exaggeration. What is not in doubt, however, is that a cut of that magnitude will have serious implications, and will require urgent discussions about alternative ways of funding the sector.
Whatever anyone’s views might be on student contributions, public funding or cost cutting, across these islands right now higher education is being thrown into deep turmoil just at the time when vibrant universities are needed to overcome the impact of the recession. It is a time for creative thinking and strong advocacy from the university sector; now is the time for initiative and innovation, and for leading the debate rather than reacting to it.