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Universities UK response to Higher Education White Paper

Universities UK is pleased that today’s White Paper recognises the success and contribution of universities to the health of the UK. In addition to its outline plans for funding the sector, it contains a number of proposals to ensure that the sector remains competitive and responsive. Universities UK will be considering these carefully and talking to Government over the coming months.

We are pleased the Government has recognised that the sector needs substantial investment. In the spending review settlement for 2002 also published today it has made a real contribution to filling the funding gap, and has acknowledged some of the investment needs identified in our submission to the Spending Review. This is reflected in the overall annual real terms increase of 6%.

We calculate that there is some £3.7billion additional public investment in HE for England over the spending review period plus an additional £0.8 billion for student support. This is welcome news and when set against current funding amounting to £6 billion per year (excluding student support) is a substantial increase.Universities UK will now look at the details of the recommendations for institutional funding and examine closely the extent to which new money is earmarked to fund specific Government initiatives. Clearly any new money available for teaching through the block grant would be reduced by these initiatives. We also note the Government’s comments on developing research in universities. We will want to look closely at the proposals for new systems of allocation.

It is good news for institutions that the £170 million made available as a special initiative under SR2000 on HR strategies will be consolidated into institutions' core grants from 2004-05. This is something for which Universities UK has campaigned.In the longer term, we note the steps taken in the White Paper to make changes to the student contribution, including the deferment of repayment of an increased tuition fee. We take some reassurance from the announcement that universities will receive an immediate income equivalent to the value of the fee from Government following the removal of an upfront fee contribution from the student. Universities UK has said it will judge any new funding mechanism on the extent to which it brings additional new money to the sector.

We note the new funding arrangements, including the increased Access Premium, outlined in the White Paper, which will help ensure that future expansion is better supported. Universities UK acknowledges the Government response to our proposal for the reintroduction of targeted maintenance support – this will go some way towards addressing concerns over debt aversion among potential students from poorer backgrounds.

Universities UK welcomes the increased emphasis in the White Paper on widening participation – all UK universities support a properly funded 50% target and we are already working hard in this area. We note the proposal to introduce an Access Regulator but we remain to be convinced what value a regulator would add to performance indicators and funding mechanisms already in place to encourage access. This is in addition to the Government’s acceptance that the biggest barrier to university entry is attainment and aspiration in schools.

We are pleased that the Government will finance our proposals for a Leadership Foundation to help university management meet the competitive challenges which the White Paper describes.

We are also pleased that our work with HEFCE on an agency for teaching enhancement is so fully supported. In addition, we will be assessing the regulatory burden of many of the Paper’s proposals including those for the assessment to determine centres of teaching excellence.Diana Warwick, chief executive, Universities UK, said: "The White Paper makes a generous acknowledgement of the successful contribution universities have made. It also contains many detailed proposals which we will now be looking at very carefully."

Universities UK Media Release, January 22, 2003

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Last updated: 24 January 2003 10:55
Created by: Rachel Tunstall

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