Government funding for universities in Scotland may have disproportionately affected newer universities with smaller pools of income, according to a report.
A report published by Audit Scotland last month stated that the Scottish Funding Council pulled back funding when universities “delivered less than the agreed volume of teaching activity.”
The report also ascribed financial strain on universities to the uncertainty of EU withdrawal, as well as rising pension and estates costs.
Ancient universities such as the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and St. Andrews are better equipped to deal with these financial pressures because of the funding they receive from the tuition fees of students coming from other parts of the UK, or from outside of the EU.
These tuition payments account for some 32% of ancient universities’ income, according to the report. However, modern universities rely more heavily on government funding and may suffer more significantly from increasing financial pressure in the Education sector.
The University of Glasgow reports an annual £203,956, out of their total income of £630,638, coming from tuition and education contracts.
Because ancient universities are more able to offset government budget cuts, they may be able to provide better resources for their students.
Despite reductions in Scottish Funding Council funding, eight of Scotland's 18 universities - Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Dundee, Heriot-Watt, Stirling, and Strathclyde - have continued to increase their income, mainly from non-EU tuition fees.
Auditor General for Scotland, Caroline Gardner said that there is significant variation in the financial strength of Scotland’s university sector.
“A small number of universities are stretching ahead of the rest and are in a better position to deal with the financial pressures facing the whole sector. But they still face strong global competition,” Gardner said.
However, the audit does not believe there should be concern about the sustainability of Scottish university funding.
“There is no evidence of a direct link between funding and university performance against other agreed targets, such as those for student retention and for recruitment to courses in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM),” the audit states.
The next budget will take place in December and could provide an opportunity for increased funding in the university sector.