Government funding of university research at lowest proportion since 1900s

Annual public spending on university teaching and research in England will fall to its lowest proportion in over a century.


Sally Hunt is the general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU)

A report out this morning by the University and College Union (UCU) has revealed annual public spending on university teaching and research in England will fall to its lowest proportion in over a century, as a result of the government’s new higher education reforms.

As Graph 1 shows, the research, which comes as ministers prepare to announce the 2012 higher education grant letter, forecasts that by 2014/15 annual government funding for teaching and research will make up just 15.0% of universities’ income – the lowest since the 1900s. UCU estimates that in the space of three years, annual public funding for teaching and research will fall by 44%, from £6.6bn in 2011/12 to £3.7bn in 2014/15.

Graph 1:

Our study also highlights how as spending on teaching and research falls, the burden on students to fund higher education will increase. By 2013/2014 the proportion students contribute to university funding (through higher tuition fees) will be 47.2% – the highest since the 1890s when university was the preserve of the wealthiest.

We believe this research highlights a retreat from public investment in higher education in England and underlines how over the last 30 years higher education funding has shifted from the state to the student.

This government’s regressive university reforms will accelerate this process further and see annual public investment in teaching and research shrink to levels not seen since the 1900s. These plans will put at risk decades of progress in opening up access to education and will endanger the health of the sector. You cannot maintain a world-class university system in the 21st century by turning the clock back to the 1900s and before.

Our universities are a public good that currently generate billions for the economy – why put that at risk by starving institutions of public funds and forcing students to foot the bill?

See also:

Cameron is pricing the young out of education and consigning them to the dole queueSally Hunt, December 14th 2011

University applications down 9 per cent on 2011Sally Hunt, October 24th 2011

The marketised core of the government’s universities plan is rottenDavid Barclay, June 7th 2011

Coalition must reconsider privatisation of Higher Education before it’s too lateSally Hunt, May 23rd 2011

Willetts must learn from America’s mistakes over for-profit universitiesSally Hunt, May 6th 2011

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