Unions warn of ‘damaging consequences’ over university budget funding

Ministers have been warned that a £1 billion funding deal for Scotland’s universities could have “damaging consequences” for the sector.

The University and College Union hit out after the Scottish Funding Council, the body which funds higher and further education, announced its indicative allocations for the next academic year.

The university sector will receive just over £1 billion for day-to-day running costs for the academic year 2019-20 as part of the Scottish Budget deal, while colleges are to get some £623.6 million.

Higher education funding will remain at the same level as 2018-19, the SFC said, with the overall teaching budget maintained in cash terms at £661 million.

The research budget has “also been maintained in cash terms” at £384.6 million.

SFC chief executive Karen Watt said: “Against a backdrop of increasing funding pressures, the Scottish Funding Council is continuing to invest in learning and teaching and research excellence.”

But with funding levels not having risen in line with inflation, the UCU warned that the higher education sector was facing “further real terms cuts”.

UCU Scotland official Mary Senior said: “These cuts will have damaging consequences for students and staff in universities, at an already uncertain time.

“If we want a world-leading university system, that is also accessible to students from hard to reach backgrounds, it needs to be properly funded – not hit by further real-terms cuts at a time when other costs are increasing.”

Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said that “seldom have we seen the higher education sector so concerned about a Scottish Government funding settlement”.

The Tory MSP stated: “Today’s SFC statistics provide more detail about the 1.79% real terms budget cut in university funding and the implications for teaching.

“The SNP has given higher education a really raw deal and has its fingers in its ears when it comes to the implications for students and staff.”

She warned: “Long term, the SNP’s current approach is likely to do untold damage to the higher education sector.”

Funding from the Scottish Government makes up about 40% of universities’ overall income.

A Government spokesman said: “As Universities Scotland’s own analysis shows, while there is always some variation between years for individual institutions, there has been no cash reduction in the funding for the sector as a whole with more than £1 billion invested in them every year since 2012-13.”

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