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Funding cuts deepen as cap lifts on student numbers

Universities face a 5.85 per cent cut in most teaching grants next year, three times the rate of inflation, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) announced today.

Funding for widening access for full time and part-time students will be reduced by the same percentage, and £13 million will be wiped off “special” funding for national facilities and initiatives.

The cuts are higher than the £45 million that had been expected when the Government announced its funding in the annual grant letter to HEFCE last month.

To ensure that institutions have time to plan and implement savings there will be no in-year reduction for 2013-14, said HEFCE.  Most of the cuts will be made in 2014-15 and the rest in 2015-16.

The drop in funding will affect high cost STEM subjects such as science and engineering which the Government said in its grant letter that it wanted to see protected “as far as possible”. The allocation for high-cost provision at small and specialist institutions will be reduced by a lower three per cent.

Research budgets will be maintained for 2014-15 at £1,558 million, the same as last year. Funding for knowledge exchange will also be maintained at £160 million.

In a letter to institutions Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE chief executive, said the cuts were higher than it had expected on the basis of the grant letter.  Hefce had needed to stretch the funding to cover an extra 30,000 students expected to start courses this September.  It had also needed to absorb the loss of government funding for the Access to Learning Fund and to provide support for the new National Collaborative Outreach Network.

“These additional commitments mean that the underlying reduction to the 2014-15 teaching grant baseline is considerably more than the net reduction of £45 million,” said Professor Atkins.