English Universities Stem the Budget Bleeding

Details of the much-reduced government funding for universities in England were released today following a meeting last week of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) board. Despite having to absorb a 9.5% cut in its funding from the government, HEFCE cut its spending on research by only 1.1%. Money for student tuition and capital spending were more sharply cut.

HEFCE distributes government money to universities and colleges in England (there are similar bodies in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) because students do not pay the full cost of their tuition. One of the first acts of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition elected last May was to announce that in 2012 they would raise the level of tuition fees so that students would shoulder most of the financial burden of their teaching.

As this won't fully come into effect until the 2012-13 academic year, 2011-12 is a year of transition. HEFCE's government grant for that year is £6.51 billion, down by £685 million from the previous year's funding. Exactly how much will be given to each institution will be decided at a meeting in March.

The vast majority of HEFCE grants to universities are spent on teaching, but some £1.56 billion is earmarked to cover lab overheads in high-performing science departments.Iin line with government policy, this is down just £17 million compared with 2010-11.