HEFCE funding announcement - Russell Group comment

HEFCE funding announcement - Russell Group comment
02 February 2011

Commenting on HEFCE's university funding announcement for 2011-12, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group of universities, said:

"We recognise that during this period of ongoing economic stringency that universities should bear their fair share of cuts.  But in the same week as UK R&D has been hit by the closure of the Pfizer facility in Kent, these new cuts will make it even harder for our top universities and researchers to lead the economic recovery.  Many of our competitors are pumping billions into research and higher education, and our leading universities are already under-resourced in comparison with our international competitors. Maintaining the quality of the England's world-class universities is essential if the country is to work and think its way back to economic growth.

On research
"We welcome the protection of the science budget in cash terms in the spending review and the emphasis on excellence. We also support the Government's HEIF (funding for innovation and knowledge transfer) reforms, which will focus on performance and incentivise the very best institutions.

"But in addition to the cuts in research, we are also concerned that cuts to capital spend will prove particularly detrimental, creating real and long-term difficulties for UK universities.  World-class infrastructure, particularly buildings and equipment, is needed to facilitate the very best environment for research and teaching.

"In the current economic conditions, it is particularly important to invest limited funds in the places where they will have the greatest impact. Our world-class, research-intensive universities have the excellence, critical mass and multi-disciplinary capacity to compete globally. It is important that the Government does not try to spread limited funds too thinly particularly in postgraduate funding.

On teaching funding for English universities
"The cut in teaching funding this year, though not unexpected, will be really challenging for universities.  This is only the latest in a series of cuts to university funding which have already required us to seek all available opportunities to make savings. [1]

"We now know universities will be permitted to increase their fees from autumn 2012, but today's cuts will reduce the resources available to us to teach students who are already at university, and those who will start their courses next year. Moreover, the very significant cut of 54% in teaching capital will make it very difficult for our universities to achieve their goal of sustaining a world-class learning experience for our students.

"The indicative cuts to teaching funding for 2012-13 highlight just how important recent parliamentary votes were in providing essential funding to replace these losses, albeit via increased fees and graduate contributions. Without that income, it would have been impossible to maintain the world-class quality of our courses."



  • [1] See Russell Group publication Staying on top: The challenge of sustaining world-class higher education in the UK (2010)