Reporter 410, 17 November 1997

Vice-Chancellors join in condemning Blunkett’s squeeze on funding

University Vice-Chancellors have condemned as totally unacceptable the news that some of the money raised by £1,000-a-year tuition fees is to be diverted away from the Higher Education sector.

The revelation that universities are to keep only £125m of the estimated £150m raised by the introduction of students’ fees came in a Department of Education and Employment paper leaked to the Times Higher Education Supplement. Around £16m of the shortfall has been earmarked for the further education sector, and the remainder has been allocated to universities in Wales.

A disappointed Diana Warwick, chief executive of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (CVCP), said: “Universities have made their position clear – all the money contributed by students should go towards securing the quality of their education. It would be unacceptable if this did not happen.”

She said it would make a bad situation even worse, because the £165m package announced by Education Secretary David Blunkett in September already fell far short of the extra £350m which the Dearing Report said universities required for 1998-99.

“And the situation in 1999-2000 is even worse, so it is vital that the principle of student contributions going back into higher education is upheld,” added Diana Warwick.

Pressure is also mounting on the Government to end the disparity over fees for traditional four-year degrees at Scottish universities. The CVCP is seeking legal advice on the announcement that Scottish and other EU students will pay a total of £3,000, while students from elsewhere in the UK studying in Scotland will have to pay £4,000.

Meanwhile, the Higher Education Funding Council has told the Government that an ‘Ivy League’ of élite universities with track records for excellent teaching should benefit from a ‘quality premium’ bonus scheme which would spread more widely the additional funds currently given solely to Oxford and Cambridge.

¤ The University of Leeds expects to receive extra funding of around £1.5m for 1998-99, as a result of David Blunkett’s £165m Higher Education package. However, despite this and the continuing efforts to contain expenditure, the University still faces the prospect of a £2m deficit for the year.

Further effort will be needed to help balance the books, and both early retirement and mobility incentive schemes have again been made available to staff.

The University actually made a surplus of £3.3 million in 1996-97, but more than half of this was the result of a one-off recovery of VAT payments.

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