Response to latest public expenditure announcement

24 May 2010

Commenting on today’s announced reduction of £200m in funding for universities, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

“Now more than ever, our research-intensive universities have a crucial role to play in helping the UK survive the economic downturn and stimulate recovery. We welcome the fact that no further cuts to research funding have been signalled today but it is important to remember that our competitors in Europe, Asia and the US are pouring more resources into higher education and research as a strategy for coming out of recession.

“It is very concerning that - taken on top of £1bn cuts to higher education announced over the past few months - this latest cut further undermines the ability of our higher education sector to compete against increasingly stiff international competition.   Moreover, the interdependence of teaching and research means that the research strength of a university relies not only on adequate numbers of high-quality, dedicated research staff, but also on adequate resources for teaching.

“However, we recognise that in the present economic climate maintaining the quality of the student experience is sacrosanct and even more important than expanding the number of places. It is particularly important that these cuts do not put at risk subjects such as science, technology, engineering, maths and modern foreign languages which are extremely important to the future success of the UK’s economy. The costs of teaching these crucially important subjects are significantly higher than many other subjects and it is essential that universities can access adequate funding to teach these courses.

“Any further funding reduction during the coming year and beyond would risk damaging the education of our students and the cutting-edge research at Russell Group universities - and undermine the Government’s ambitions for world-leading innovation and a highly educated and socially mobile workforce.  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.

“We should also not forget that the Devolved Administrations also have to find some £704m of efficiency savings, either this year or next.  We do not yet know if universities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be affected by these cuts.”

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