Comment on Russell Group university finances

21 February 2022

In response to stories in the media about Russell Group university finances, a Russell Group spokesperson said:

"Our universities have worked hard to prioritise students and provide the best possible experience during the pandemic, investing significantly in digital learning and increasing wider support services. In-person teaching continued for essential courses throughout the pandemic and since September has been in place for the vast majority of all courses including seminars, small group classes and lab work.

"The decision to award A Level grades via teacher assessment in 2020 and 2021 saw big increases in the number of students achieving top grades and qualifying for places at higher-tariff universities. Our members worked to accommodate as many students as possible so no one was penalised unfairly, an approach that was welcomed by government, schools, parents and students alike.

"These new places were created at the same time as universities managed continued real terms cuts in the value of fees due to rising inflation that mean courses for UK undergraduates are provided at an average deficit of up to £2,400 per student per year in medical courses and £1,000 in classroom subjects."

Further Information

The real-terms value of the student tuition fee, which has remained at £9,250 since 2016, has been eroded over several years. Last week, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that holding them at 2021 levels amounted to a real terms cut of 15% over the last decade. In July 2021, the Office for Students estimated a 17 per cent cut in the value of the fee between 2012/13 and 2021/22, while OfS funding for teaching per full-time equivalent student (FTE) has declined by 19.3% since 2018/19In July last year HEPI said inflation had eroded the real value (in 2012 money) of the fee from £9,000 in 2012 to around £7,760 in 2020.

Russell Group analysis (p24, para 2.30) found that many undergraduate courses are now being run at a deficit. The average course deficit for each medical student was around £2,400, £1,900 for STEM subjects and a £1,000 deficit for classroom based subjects.

During the course of the pandemic universities have invested millions of pounds to supplement in-person teaching with quality digital provision that is inclusive and accessible.

For example, since March 2020 the University of Manchester has invested approximately £3m into supporting blended learning, including in equipment for staff (microphones, webcams, drawing tablets, etc), IT resource and technology, as well as expanding staff resource. This includes boosting its e-learning support team by around 20% with 24 new instructional designers and learning technologists. For more information read our briefing here.



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