Uncertainty as university reacts to latest HE cuts

The Department for Education is to lose £670 million overall, with £200 million being cut from the university budget.

The cuts are part of a measure to reduce public spending by £6.25 billion and were announced on Monday, May 23rd by George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, and David Laws, his chief secretary.

The new coalition government is also cutting 10, 000 extra university places that were promised under Labour. This decision comes after a record number of applications to university.

Under the old Labour government, funding for 20,000 places was promised in order to cope with the 16.5% increase in people applying for university.


The University of Lincoln reacts to the latest cuts from government to university budgets. Photo: Mike Hodges

Professor Scott Davidson, pro-vice chancellor for external affairs at the University of Lincoln, told BBC Lincolnshire that these cuts to further education were expected: “The universities were, of course, expecting to take a hit, so we have been preparing and doing scenario planning to see how we would cope with the range of cuts.”

This has been the position of the university throughout the year, as Professor Mary Stuart, Lincoln’s vice-chancellor, told The Linc earlier in the year: “The real issue for us, and all the sector, is what cuts are down the line next year as we cannot predict exactly what will happen following the election, but it is likely these will be more severe. We are working hard to ensure we are in a strong position to manage any further cuts by developing other revenue streams through work with business, research, and recruiting additional students where we are able to do so.”

Currently it is unclear as to how Lincoln will be affected, says Davidson: “We have a funding body that stands between us and the government, and the funding body will have to decide how it allocates out those cuts.

“One indication that we had from them, this has been a long standing indication since we knew that the country was in financial trouble, is that they don’t intend it to be misery for all. So there might be a degree of selectivity as to how they apply it across the sector.”

Further indications as to how the university will be affected are due sometime in the next week.

However, Davidson reassures that the cuts in extra places shouldn’t hit Lincoln. “It won’t affect us at all this year because we have a fairly strict cap on the number of students that we can take and all our funding is premised on that cap.”

This was highlighted earlier in the year, when universities were threatened with fines for over recruiting, but Lincoln was well within its student population.

Davidson was also keen to point out that funding does not solely come from the government: “I think you have to remember the wider picture here. All of the universities receive direct funding from the government through teaching grant and research funding. We also get indirect funding because student fees are generally borrowed by the students from the student funding body.”

Davidson says: “We’ve got plans to minimise the impact of any cuts by generating extra revenue,” with the idea to plug the funding gap by generating income from other schemes, such as international student recruitment, research and consultancy.

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