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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 March, 2004, 16:40 GMT
Scots universities demand 156m
Shaking hands at graduation
Scotland's universities say they need new investment
Scotland's universities are demanding an extra 156m a year from the Scottish Executive to put their institutions on a proper financial footing.

They also want a one-off sum of 230m for building repairs and maintenance.

The bid was timed to coincide with the release of an executive-commissioned review of university finances.

The report, published on Thursday, said it was not possible to calculate the full impact of plans to introduce top-up fees in England.

However, it concluded that in the medium to long term, Scotland's university sector "may be affected by a growing perception" that the English sector was better funded.

Scotland's economy simply won't grow without the support of higher education
Professor Bill Stevely
Universities Scotland
It stated: "Although further work remains to be done on detailed modelling, the introduction of variable fees will clearly improve the relative financial positions of institutions in England, particularly those able to charge at the highest rate."

The formal bid for extra cash from the executive's three-year spending review, the outcome of which will be decided in September, was lodged by Universities Scotland, the body representing 21 higher educational institutions.

Professor Bill Stevely, the convener of Universities Scotland, said: "Scotland's universities need new investment if they are to remain among the world's great centres of learning.

"Scottish students deserve the best, Scotland's academics deserve fair pay, and Scotland's economy simply won't grow without the support of higher education.

Funds allocation

"If we wait until the problem is upon us it will be too late."

The universities currently receive nearly 800m per year from the executive.

If granted the extra 156m, the funds would be allocated as follows:

  • 102m a year for new activities

  • 40m for research

  • 12m to help the Scottish economy by developing commercial spin-off from research

  • 40m for teaching

  • 10m for greater student social inclusion measures.

At the launch of the funding review report, Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace repeated his pledge of extra cash for universities, but declined to say how much ahead of the spending review.

Paying tribute to the Scottish institutions, he said: "They have been a central feature in Scotland's history.

"For centuries they have enabled us to punch way above our weight on global terms. We will protect that heritage."

Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace warned of complications in paying Scottish students' fees
Mr Wallace promised a "sooner rather than later" decision on a suggestion in the review report that the executive makes an early announcement on Scottish students studying in England.

He said that from 2006 - when top-up fees begin - Scottish students should get at least as much assistance with fees costs
as the English students.

But he warned there could be complications if the executive was to pay up-front the tuition fees of Scots at English universities.

"This is a complex thing to do," he said.

"If we do it as a straight payment of a fee, we do run some risk of having to pay the fees of every EU undergraduate at an English higher education institution," he said.

"I'm not sure that is the best use of Scottish taxpayers' money.

"We very much take the point that the report makes about trying to ensure Scottish students are not disadvantaged - but it's not as simple as just saying we will pay the fees upfront."

'Damp squib'

Ministers have ruled out the introduction of top-up fees north of the border.

Opposition parties described the funding review findings as a "damp squib".

Scottish National Party leader John Swinney said everyone except executive ministers accepted there was a funding crisis in higher education.

Tory spokesman Murdo Fraser said: "Today's review is an enormous let-down.

"In typical executive fashion, the report has been trailed in a blaze of publicity, and has turned out to be a damp squib."


WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Scotland's Glenn Campbell
"University bosses say Scotland will fall behind"


Enterprise Minister Jim Wallace
"I think it highlights issues which we need to address"



SEE ALSO:
Funding appeal to graduates
25 Feb 04  |  Scotland
McConnell's pledge on top-up fees
22 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Top-up fees 'are inevitable'
18 Jan 04  |  Scotland
'Top-up' fees funding call
27 Dec 03  |  Scotland
Cash plea from university chiefs
09 Dec 03  |  Scotland


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