University funding levels are “unsustainable”

Credit: Anon. Main Building, University of Glasgow

Credit: Anon. Main Building, University of Glasgow

Charlie Heywood-Heath

Universities in Scotland have warned the Scottish Funding Council that the current financial support being received is not sustainable. This revelation comes after many universities announce that if funding levels fail to improve, courses and staffing will have to be cut.

Since 2010, real term funding from the Scottish Funding Council has fallen by 12%. This means institutions must sacrifice money from other areas in order to comply with the cuts.

A number of universities, such as Aberdeen, have announced the difficulty that these cuts have created in recent years. Aberdeen University recently dismissing 150 staff members due to drops in research funding.

Many institutions are now investigating whether this problem will only get worse as Britain prepares to leave the EU. As well as the Scottish Funding Council, the EU plays a vital role in funding universities. Not only do they provide financial support for research and allow universities to engage with world-leading researchers on issues, but also through the large numbers of EU students that come into the country every year. In the circumstance that Britain does not strike a good deal with the EU, the country may face a decrease in both university research funding and EU students, placing greater pressure on the university to search for alternatives.

Many have raised the question of whether it is time for the Scottish government to scrap free tuition for students and instead ensure that all future Scottish and EU students pay their fees. Though a controversial move, Universities Scotland has raised the issue that the money currently received from the Scottish government does not cover the overall cost of free tuition.

This means that universities are not getting their money back and so free places have to be subsidised by other financial support that universities receive. A study by the watchdog Audit Scotland found that in 2014/2015 universities only recovered 94% of costs of subsidised free tuition, falling to 90% for this year.
A spokesperson for the University of Glasgow told the Glasgow Guardian: “Whilst we fully appreciate that public finances are tight it is important to recognise that in addition to delivering world class teaching and research, higher education is also a major driver of the Scottish economy.

“We have a good working relationship with the Scottish Government and are in regular contact with ministers and officials both as an individual institution and through Universities Scotland.”


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