Rumours of the cuts to come

Rumours of the cuts to come to British Higher Education here and here. As I said in my immediate thoughts on the Browne report a few days ago (here), the the unsaid part of the report was the massive cuts coming in the comprehensive spending review. These are now said to be in the region of 80% to the teaching budget, with the aim of making up the shortfall through the increased fees. But from various figures doing the rounds, universities would have to charge £7,000 just to stand still, if – and this is clearly a big if – they are able to maintain recruitment levels. But £7,000 is over the notional £6,000 figure where availability of loan support dries up and levies are made on the amount going to universities.

So, there will be a squeeze there, and it seems optimistic to think that the change in funding will not change student willingness to go to university, do the same courses, and at the same places. In other words, some really big changes are on the horizon.

Steve Smith, VC of Exeter and chair of Universities UK said this:

The biggest worry is simple to state: if Browne fails to get through the Commons, or gets unpicked, or gets accepted but only after major changes are made, we will simply not be able to replace the unprecedented reductions in state funding that are coming in the Spending Review.

So, quite apart from anything else, the shift in the balance that seems to be being attempted here may be out even before the new system has begun. There are also presumably some complications in timing. The cuts will be set for the budgets of future years; the legislation to bring in different fees will take time; and in the first year of implementation only around 1/3 of undergraduate students will be paying the higher fees (a smaller proportion for longer courses and part-time degrees). So it will take a number of years before the whole system is running in the way that this seems to be planned.

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