Page last updated at 10:10 GMT, Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Redundancy claim over uni funding

Graduation day
The funding council is warning of cuts in science and technology

The body responsible for funding Welsh universities is raising the possibility of compulsory redundancies and course cutbacks because of a cash squeeze.

The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales will be giving evidence to the assembly's finance committee.

But a lecturers union has accused the funding body of giving vice chancellors "an excuse to sack academics".

The assembly government said the higher education sector had to maximise the £400m-plus it receives annually.

In written evidence to the finance committee, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales is to warn of cuts in fields such as science, technology and engineering, subjects often cited by ministers as vital to developing the Welsh economy.

The council's chief executive Philip Gummett said that because staff costs amount to 58% of total sector costs, it its likely to result in staffing reductions, including possible compulsory redundancies.

'Onslaught'

But Peter Jones, national chair of the University and College Union Cymru, said the funding council had made an "irresponsible statement".

He said: "It allows the vice chancellors of the universities an excuse to sack academics and we cannot allow that.

"There has been an onslaught on the working conditions, and the number of lecturers working in universities and colleges, not just in Wales but across England as well.

"The key to a good job, the key to a vibrant economy is to make sure we have the scientists, the artists, the linguists, the doctors, the teachers, the philosophers to help Wales out of the current crisis."

Welsh Lib Dem education spokesman, Jenny Randerson, said: "If this Labour-Plaid government is serious about bringing the Welsh economy in line with that of the rest of the UK and increasing our skills base, we need to maintain investment in the key drivers for growth, with higher education paramount.

'Efficiencies'

"Labour and Plaid Cymru are slashing 5% from across the university budget when they should be freezing central administration budgets and investigating the misspending of money in the NHS."

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said: "The new Welsh higher education strategy, For Our Future, sets a framework to ensure the sector meets the needs of the people of Wales and the Welsh economy.

"The budget allocation for higher education is £429m for 2010-11, this represents a 1.4 % increase in cash terms over the settlement for 2009-10.

"Although there is no reduction in funding, we expect further and higher education institutions to continue to seek efficiencies to release resources for the delivery of front line services and this is particularly important in the current economic climate."



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