University’s Scotland calls out the proposed budget for ongoing cuts in the higher education sector.
Announced on 9 December, the Scottish government’s draft budget for the coming financial year may represent cuts to university funding during the 2022/23 period, continuing a prolonged trend of divestment from higher education and leaving universities with fewer resources to meet the needs of their students and staff according to Universities Scotland.
The official budget statement claims to remain mindful of the effects of new Covid-19 variants, the removal of last year’s consequential across the board will limit the effectiveness of support services at a university level. Funding for services intended to limit the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic for students (including the provision of graduate apprenticeships), has been cut despite the continuation of the pandemic and consequent government-mandated learning adjustments. Alternative sources for additional funding have not been proposed.
The changes to provisions proposed by the budget draft run counter to the Scottish Funding Council’s description of the current financial situation of institutions of higher education as an “emergency”, failing to accommodate the necessary extension of learning adjustments recommended by the Scottish government following the emergence and spread of the Omicron variant.
Although the overall funding for higher education increases under this budget, the per capita investment in students continues to decline with the loss of last year’s Covid-19 consequential as universities are forced to draw on their declining core budgets to maintain operations.
The Scottish government’s failure to address the challenges posed by the pandemic’s prolonged disruption to both academic and mental health at universities may reach a critical point, warns Professor Sir Gerry McCormac, Convener of Universities Scotland. Together with Colleges Scotland, he proposes multi-year funding commitments to higher education as a solution, though whether any changes to the current draft will be made will remain unknown until the spending review in May this year.