Universities must save £300m in 2011 - sparking huge losses of jobs and courses


Universities will be told to find savings of £300million next year – unleashing another wave of anger about cuts in higher education.

Critics warned last night that hundreds of jobs will go and dozens of courses will have to be slashed as the government seeks savings.

The 6 per cent cut in the £9 billion budget for universities announced today will be imposed from next April – more than a year before they start to get extra income from the imposition of graduate tuition fees.

Universities minister David Willetts will outline in the exact figures in a written statement to Parliament

Anger on the way? Universities minister David Willetts will outline the exact figures in a written statement to Parliament

Ministers have already outlined plans for a £40 cut in university budgets by 2015 in order to help tackle the giant budget deficit.

Universities minister David Willetts will today outline the precise figures for 2011-12 in a written ministerial statement to Parliament.

It expected to show that the grant for teaching and money for research sent to universities by central government will be cut by around £400 million.

Loans advanced to universities to cover student fees will rise slightly, bringing the overall cut to around £300 million.

Mr Willetts told the Mail last night that the cut is relatively modest and that higher education chiefs must do their bit.

‘We are looking for universities to make some efficiency savings in the coming year. That’s what other parts of the public sector are having to do. It’s right to expect universities to have to do the same.

‘There are savings that can be made without damaging teaching. Then they should be able to enjoy further income in future when the revenue from the new system of graduate fees comes in.’

The government believes that university chiefs should seek to make cost savings in the same way that Whitehall departments have had to absorb austerity cuts.

They want to see in house payroll, property management and IT functions contracted out to the private sector – now common practice in many other public sector organisations.

Universities in the same cities will also be encouraged to merge their back office functions to save money.

But Labour seized the chance to provoke a new wave of student anger about the government’s cuts to universities.

Shadow higher education spokesman Gareth Thomas said: ‘Just when we thought things couldn’t get worse for students, the government is cutting funding to universities.

Inevitably it will have an impact on the quality of courses and on lecturers and it is further bad news for universities.

‘On the basis of conversations I have had with vice-chancellors, it is difficult to see how they could not cut courses and staff, so I am afraid student choice will suffer and the quality of their experience at university could be badly affected.’

Universities UK, which represents university vice-chancellors, has called for the bulk of the cuts to be delayed until universities start receiving new tuition fee income in 2012.

A spokesman from Universities UK said: ‘If this figure turns out to be true it will be difficult for the sector to deal with, and could do damage before the income from fees comes in.

‘We would be talking about potential loss of capacity in some parts of the sector, at a time when we need more graduates with higher skills coming through.’

The spokesman called for the government ‘to do what they can to smooth the effects of cuts in grant over the Spending Review period’.


 

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