Page last updated at 13:49 GMT, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Universities in Wales face money 'challenge'

Graduates (generic)
University bosses say they are working to maximise what they offer with 'tight' finances

Universities in Wales are facing a "tight" year financially, with a funding drop of almost 2% announced.

Eleven universities will see teaching budgets cut, with unions fearful of less teaching time with students.

Universities have been allocated the same budgets as last year - but some of the money has already been spent.

The Welsh Assembly Government said it expected "rapid and radical change" from universities, with more required than "business as usual".

In 2009/10 universities were given grants totalling £433.8m. The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) confirmed grants of £403m for the academic year 2010/2011, in addition to capital funding of £22.6m.

The Open University, classed as Wales' 12th university, is not affected by the changes.

The HEFCW has also made some changes to the way budgets are distributed, due to the recession and the difference between the academic and financial year.

Challenges

The result, in real terms, is a drop of 1.9%.

Prof Philip Gummett, chief executive of HEFCW, said "substantial public investment" was continuing but there were "challenges" to make efficiencies in a "tight financial environment".

FUNDING AND COMPARISON
Aberystwyth £32.4m (-2.2%)
Bangor £31.3m (-2.4%)
Cardiff £110.3m (-1.74%)
Glamorgan £52.3m (-1.8%)
Glyndwr, Wrexham £15m (-3.4%)
Lampeter £5.8m (+0.3%)
Newport £19.2m (-2.2%)
Swansea £41.2m (-1.9%)
Swansea Metropolitan £14.9m (-2.4%)
Trinity, Carmarthen £5.6m (-0.8%)
UWIC, Cardiff £26.9m (-2.1%)
Total funding in 2010/2011 and percentage change on previous year, including adjustment for teacher training funding. Source: HEFCW

He added: "There are evident challenges for higher education in this climate, and we look to institutions to maximise efficiency of the use of funding, both individually and collectively."

Lecturers' unions are expected to oppose any attempt to make staff redundant as part of cost cutting, while they are worried about loss of teaching time with students.

The budget includes a new fund to deliver future changes.

This year, 20% of the revenue budget will go into this fund, to bring forward the assembly government's higher education review, For Our Future.

This re-shaping of higher education aims to widen access, improve governance and closer working between universities and respond to the needs of the Welsh economy, as it moves out of recession.

'Present challenges'

This fund is expected to become the major part of the HEFCW budget in future years.

The chair of Higher Education Wales, which represents vice chancellors of universities in Wales, admitted it was a "tight settlement" which would "present challenges".

Prof Noel Lloyd, who is also vice chancellor of Aberystwyth University, added: "It comes at a time when we are working ever more effectively to maximise the contribution we make to the Welsh economy and our society.

"It is a time of public spending restraint, and universities are continually stepping up efforts to work more efficiently to maximise the benefit delivered to Wales."

Paul Whiting, director of finance and estates at Glyndwr University, in Wrexham, said the 3.4% drop in its grant would fall across all departments but there were no plans for compulsory job redundancies.

He said: "We recognise that the Welsh Assembly Government is trying to balance a budget across all of the public sectors in Wales."

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said ministers had made their expectations of the higher education sector clear through the strategy document For Our Future.

'Unsustainable'

He said: "As For our Future makes clear, higher education providers must change radically and rapidly if the sector is to compete with the rest of the world, and deliver the transformation we seek in the social and economic prospects of Wales.

"The current model is unsustainable.

"Higher education providers and HEFCW need to respond imaginatively and quickly, and not just try and tighten belts while carrying on business as usual. That approach will not work.

"Our HE Governance Review will ensure that HE institutions have the proper governance structures to fit them for the demands of a more accountable age. The public expects nothing less."



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SEE ALSO
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Universities feel funding squeeze
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Review into universities' funding
03 Mar 10 |  Wales
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17 Mar 09 |  Wales
Universities push for higher fees
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