Spending Review 2010 – Vice-Chancellor’s response to the announcement

Today's announcement indicates the scale of the changes to public funding that the HE sector must address over the next few years.

As a sector, we are being asked to manage a saving of 40 per cent, contributing to the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills' overall saving of 25 per cent, compared to the average Government departmental saving of 19 per cent over four years.

The overall resource budget for Higher Education, excluding research funding, will reduce from £7.1 billion to £4.2 billion, a £2.9 billion reduction, by 2014-15. The Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) has announced it will continue to fund teaching for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

The Government intends to introduce legislation that will allow universities to increase graduate contributions, from 2012/13, in order to offset the reduction in the publicly-funded teaching grant.

Increasing graduate contributions was one of the recommendations proposed by Lord Browne in the report of his review of funding for Higher Education published last week. The implementation timetable announced today is ambitious and we will have an enormous challenge ahead of us given that the recruitment cycle for the 2012 intake will begin next Autumn. 

The science research budget appears to have escaped the cuts with the Chancellor agreeing to protect funding at £4.6bn per annum because of its importance to long-term economic growth.

While the 'flat cash' settlement will actually mean a real-term cut of about nine per cent over the four years covered by this review, it means science is one of the very few areas of public spending to be protected to this level. This outcome is a major success for universities such as Bath which campaigned against cuts in research funding.

Events such as last week's SETsquared 'Changing Worlds' conference in London clearly demonstrated to the Government and opinion formers the real impact our research has on a global stage.

Our University has a strong financial and reputational base and is well-placed to meet the challenges ahead. Nevertheless, in the new funding environment we will need to ensure that:

  • we are effectively communicating our academic excellence in teaching and research and effectively marketing our programmes of study and other services;
  • we are clearly articulating the benefits of studying at Bath, in terms of excellent student employability/career prospects and high completion/success rates, the latter underpinned by the supportive learning environment that we offer;
  • we continue to enhance the student experience by investing in people, facilities and services, and offering a wide range of opportunities for personal development;
  • we compete successfully for the resources to support our vibrant research culture, which informs our teaching and addresses issues of global significance.

In this rapidly evolving funding environment, we will need to be fleet and responsive. I am confident that colleagues across campus have the skills, creativity and flexibility to ensure that we don't just adapt to these new circumstances but that we actually thrive in them.

We will need time to evaluate the full impact of today's announcements and any subsequent statements from BIS and HEFCE, but as always the devil will be in the detail. I will provide you with a more comprehensive briefing as soon as possible.

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