Funding Scottish higher education
Following the outcome of the UK spending review, the Scottish government has now published its draft budget for 2011-12, and as part of that has indicated the funding to be allocated to higher education. Recurrent funding will be reduced from £989 million in 2010-11 to £926 million, which represents a cut of just over 6 per cent. This is a marginally smaller cut then the reduction being applied to Scottish government spending overall, and therefore signals, at least in some measure, a desire to continue to support higher education as a priority. Nevertheless, it is still a significant cut, and it will not be easy for some of the universities to cope with it.
The key passages in the budget statement as regards higher education include the following:
‘Though the Scottish Funding Council’s budget is falling we have agreed with the further and higher education sectors that they will work collaboratively and efficiently to manage this reduction without reducing overall learning opportunities. Both sectors have agreed that core college and university student places will be maintained. In addition, and mirroring the position in England, the Scottish Funding Council’s main research excellence grant will also be protected in cash terms.’
‘The scale of the reductions required mean that we have had to take the difficult decision to reduce the overall resources for the further and higher education sectors in Scotland. In doing so, we have been very clear that our objective, in this current economic climate, is to continue to protect student numbers and to protect our investment in research. We have asked the sectors to extract maximum value from the unprecedented levels of investment they have received over the past four years by managing these reductions through greater efficiency and collaborative working. They have responded to this challenge. So we have agreed with the sectors that we will work in 2011-12 to preserve the number of core college and university student places. In addition, and mirroring the position in England, the Scottish Funding Council’s research budget will also be protected in cash terms.’
The Scottish government will, it appears, stay away from any student contributions for now. But it is clear that the existing arrangements for funding, even with the visible support the government is giving higher education, will not be sufficient over the medium term. There should be interesting discussions ahead.