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.

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6 Comments on “Funding uncertainty in Scotland”

  1. copernicus Says:

    Good post again.
    In England, the tuition fees are here to stay. The top £9000 fee will be charged by at least the top 4 universities: Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Imperial. The shift to more students’ contribution has happened, and students, and parents like me have to deal with it. The UCU’s reaction is very predictable, but the cuts are inevitable given the economic situation.

  2. Jason Michael McCann Says:

    Ferdinand, maybe I am becoming your webglog troll. Well, I have to be someone’s. Copernicus, you may be missing some essential ingredients on arriving at the conclusion that such cuts are “inevitable given the economic situation.” The United Kingdom has the fourth largest ‘defense’ budget in the world, currently standing at £37 billion. Ending British ‘defense’ in such aggressive theatre as Iraq and Afghanistan might release a few extra pennies to buy books.

    • copernicus Says:

      Some say, Foreign aid budget is large and giving aid to such countries as India and even China is futile, and that charity should begin at home. Some others say, we have too many asylum seekers and expenses related run into billions,and others point out the very huge welfare budget. There is some truth here.

      I am not missing essential ingredients at all. If you are from Ireland which is a neutral country, (and was even in WWII) you wouldn’t understand Britain’s obligation as a military power, a key NATO member, as US ally (which many may not like and that is fact) and even French, Germans and Australians are in Afghanistan. I wonder you have son/daughter who are in universities, I have, and I know what sacrifices we have to make as parents to send them there, and I know well the pain of setting apart funds for tuition fees. I am also an academic and hence knows both sides of the story. I think academics protest too much. They protested waving placards in my university a few years ago without doing exam supervision. Academics are often think about themselves while they say they care for students. The HE landscape has changed in Britain. We hear English Secondary School Boards like EdExcel are offering local colleges degree plans so that EdExcel is in a position to award degrees. EdExcel is in talks with the government. We can expect local colleges in England and indeed in Britain recruit students for degree courses (a few do in arrangement with universities now), and offering places for fees less than the going rate.

      Let us not forget the very large cuts Irish government has made and just 2 days ago a few billions of cuts were made. I cannot see the no fee” situation continuing for long. You may not like it, but that is the reality. Tuition fees in Britain are here to stay, and I have seen my son/daughter getting the benefit of vastly superior resources to science labs in UCL and Imperial paid for by tuition fees. I work in the real world outside academia, and I know how difficult it is for SMEs to survive. They create jobs , real jobs and those who work there do not not protest as much as academics do.

      • Jason Michael McCann Says:

        Without any intention of antagonising you further Copernicus, we ought to be careful of any appeals to the ‘real world’ as a source of authority in such discussions. That which is ‘real’ for you may not be realistic for others. In fact, that you are an academic with a generation below entering also into the hallowed halls of learning, you may have a minority view of the ‘real world.’ This is not to say that it is any less valuable of course.

        Mr. Cameron’s recent apology to the people of Derry and Northern Ireland certainly makes it clear what “Britain’s obligation as a military power” is and has been. As a Scot, and a proud holder of a British passport, I am sore oppressed of this obligation to violence when I read reports from current theatres of war and the vast numbers of civilian dead. The fact that the French, Germans and Australians are involved in this conflict (“an unjust war” a la the United Nations and the Vatican) adds nothing to the argument; two wrongs do not make a right.

        As to the costs on the taxpayer of humanitarian aid, you may have a point. May I then offer a compromise? Cut the defense budget, educate aspiring academics in Ethics and get their expert opinion on foreign aid. Shifting the focus from what is demonstrably wrong to other expenditures may prove nothing more than reductio ad absurdum. It is sad that we may know the cost of putting our children in uniforms and “sending them there,” but we shouldn’t need to, should we?

        • copernicus Says:

          It does not change my argument. I live in real world as I run a SME, and academics think they have a special entitlement.

  3. copernicus Says:

    The following Scotsman article is interesting as it is one way of restricting university places. The other two -Edinburgh adn St Andrews will follow suit. Dundee? probably Aberdeen? not likely.

    Ferdinand, your views,and what is likely to happen to the post-92s in Scotland?

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