Scottish Universities have lost £400m in funding through "stealth cuts", a recent The Scotsman article has revealed. These cuts come with the concern that universities are rejecting Scottish students due to affordability issues.
Scottish Labour have indicated the SNP have failed to uphold the resource budget for Scottish universities under the control of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, as the budget has fallen by 11% since 2014-15.
Figures from the Scottish Parliament Information Service, obtained by Scottish Labour, indicate that the budget for university resources during the academic year 2019-20 will be £1.007bn, a significant drop from £1.135bn in 2014-15. This marks a decrease of £417 million over a five year period.
Sturgeon’s claim that education is her priority has been heavily criticised by Iain Gray, member of the Scottish Labour party. Gray stated that this is “utterly farcical when stacked up next to the numbers”.
However, the Scottish Government have rejected these claims. Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead stated that they have been providing over £1bn each year to ensure that Scottish universities remain “attractive, competitive and truly excellent in global terms”.
Lochhead was also sceptical of Labours budgetary claims, stating: “Labour’s attack on university funding is puzzling given that they failed to demand a single extra penny for universities during their shambolic budget negotiations”.
Director of Universities Scotland, Alastair Sim, has said: “The way university budgets have been cut over the last few years has been gradual, a little every year, rather than all in one go.” This has led to the belief that the government have been "stealthily" cutting university funding each year.
Concerns have also been raised concerning the acceptance rate of Scottish students due to lack of university funding. As Scottish students are not required to pay fees, universities must gather funding from foreign students or students from around the UK. The number of places offered to Scottish students are capped, which raises the concern as to whether the declining rate of funding is forcing universities to reject Scottish students in favour of fee-paying students from abroad.
The final vote for the Budget bill for 2019-20 will be held on Thursday 21 February.