Government funding for university teaching and research to fall to lowest proportion in over a century, report warns
5 January 2012
The government's university funding reforms will see annual public spending^ on teaching and research in England fall to its lowest proportion in over a century, according to analysis published today by UCU.
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.
The union 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.^^
The 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.
UCU said the research highlighted a retreat from public investment in higher education in England and accused the government of passing the buck for funding universities from the state to the student.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'This study shows how over the last thirty 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 fall to its lowest proportion in over a century.
'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?'
HEIs in England
Tuition fee income £000
Recurrent funding income £000
Total income £000*
Tuition fee income as % total income of English HEIs
Recurrent funding as % total income of English HEIs
1895-96 (excl Ox & Cam)
1930-31 (now incl Ox & Cam)
2014-15 (UCU projection)
*net income from 2009-10, less share of joint venture income
Source: Treasury Minute, Board of Education, UGC, UFC, HESA, English HEI financial forecasts (HEFCE) (data not available between 1901-02 and 1907-08); % calculations by UCU.
Copies of the full research are available from the press office
^Recurrent funding is annual funding from the government for teaching and research at universities, to pay for staff salaries, administration and running costs, as opposed to non-recurrent funding, which is for buildings and other infrastructure.
^^UCU projection for 2014-15:
According to the December 2010 annual grant letter from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), recurrent funding for teaching is projected to fall to around £2bn in 2014-15. The recurrent grant for research will be £1,573m.
Together with £150m for Higher Education Innovation Funding, recurrent funding from HEFCE will be approximately £3,723m. A UCU projection, based on this information, plus an estimate for total net HEI income in 2014-15 based on institutions' forecasts for 2012-13 and 2013-14, indicates that recurrent funding will fall to 15% of total HEI income - just 4.1 percentage points higher than the level in 1895-96.
The UCU projection of funding income for 2014-15 does not include projected income for teacher training, because the current changes planned for the government's teacher training strategy - particularly the expansion of school-centred initial teacher training - make it difficult to predict HEI income in this area.