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Government degree funding cuts contradict own lifelong learning policy, says UCU

18 October 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

Government plans to axe degree funding for certain students contradict its own lifelong learning agenda and will hit universities offering courses to adults and part-time students the hardest, warns UCU today.

In September, the government announced that, from 2008, £100m of funding for students who are studying for a higher education qualification that is equivalent to, or lower than, a qualification that they have already been awarded would be withdrawn.

Analysis by UCU of the data on the potential financial implications for universities and colleges has revealed that post-92 universities (former polytechnics) and institutions specialising in offering degrees to workers wishing to retrain will be the biggest losers under the new regime.

The Open University will be worst hit losing over £31.6 million in teaching funding by 2014-15. Birkbeck College, University of London, will lose more than £7.8 million over the same period. Post-92 institutions feature prominently at the top of list of the biggest losers, although Oxford University comes in fourth and will lose over £4m.

The union's full analysis can be found here [331kb].

Certain subject areas such as health-related degrees, social work, initial teacher training courses and medicine and veterinary studies will be exempt from the cutbacks. However particular subject areas, mainly in the social sciences and the humanities, are likely to bear the brunt of reductions in public funding.  A full list of protected courses is available on the HEFCE website.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'The government may prefer to describe these cuts as a reallocation of funding, but the bottom line is that institutions doing the most to try and deliver both the widening participation agenda and the lifelong learning agenda will be hit the hardest.

'The Leitch report makes it clear that people need to retrain and refresh their skills. We fully support initiatives to encourage new learners into higher education, but we cannot support doors being slammed in the faces of others who wish to develop their skills. These cuts completely undermine the government's desire to provide the workforce with accessible part-time provision.'