Cuts could cost top UK universities their international edge

22 December 2009

Responding to the annual grant letter from the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) the Director General of the Russell Group of leading universities, Dr Wendy Piatt, said:

“In a very difficult economic climate it is welcome that the department has maintained the increase in research funding previously promised in the CSR and is seeking to minimise any financial impact on front-line teaching. The Russell Group also strongly welcomes the call, following on from the HE framework, for a greater focus on world class research through the concentration of resources in institutions with a world-class research capability.

“As universities face fierce international competition and severe economic conditions, it is vital that we – like China, the United States, France and Germany - bolster our leading research-intensive universities. Only by concentrating resources can we ensure that Britain retains world-class universities which are international partners of choice for students, academics and business.

“We are concerned, however, that the cuts to universities’ teaching budgets and capital projects will be particularly challenging. Reducing the amount of funding per student will create real and long term difficulties for UK universities and will only serve to undermine the quality of the student experience. Maintaining the quality of our students’ learning experience is fundamentally important to Russell Group universities.

“Although capital funding from the government over the past decade has greatly helped to improve the quality of university estates, to be a world-class force in science and research is expensive. It is essential that we maintain world-class infrastructure, particularly buildings and equipment, to facilitate the very best in research and teaching.”

“With other countries investing more, not less, in their leading universities, we are in danger of losing our international competitive edge. Universities face unprecedented global competition combined with harsh economic conditions and without access to higher levels of income, sustaining the success of the UK’s leading universities will become an impossible task. Today’s announcement, along with reductions from research councils and large cuts looming from the Pre-Budget Report, throws next year’s funding review into sharp relief. It is now even more important than ever that the Browne review of funding in HE produces options which will enable our leading universities to access more funds so they can continue to provide a first-rate teaching experience, offer generous support to disadvantaged students and continue to compete internationally.”

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