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University funding changes must be stopped to preserve accuracy

9 December 2009

UCU has warned that proposed changes to how teaching in Scottish universities is funded risked delivering inadequate and inaccurate levels of funding.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) wants to push ahead with changes to fund courses that the union, in its response to the SFC teaching funding consultation, says is based on data that does not stand up to scrutiny. UCU further warned that newer universities would be hardest hit, which made a mockery of recent funding that had been made available and was a terrible example of the SFC giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

The funding for teaching different subjects is based on data collected from Scottish universities. However, not all institutions have responded and in some cases there are huge differences in how much it costs to fund a course. UCU says it cannot support the SFC's plans to deliver funds without complete data from all universities and by opting for a mean average cost, rather than analysing universities' individual needs.

The variation in the cost for teaching some subjects is huge. The worst example is physics which varies from £2,638 in one university to £13,961, equivalent to four times the cost, at another university. In applying a cost for physics the SFC took a simple mean cost of £9,752. For most subjects the cost varies by at least a factor of two.

Crucially, says UCU, less than three-quarters of universities (72%) returned data and for one subject area, agriculture and forestry, less than a quarter of the necessary data (23%) was returned. In England, where the data is compulsory and known to be used for funding purposes, the return rates are close to 100%.

UCU President Lesley McIntosh said: 'We believe the SFC has to delay the changes to ensure that the data is accurate and our universities receive adequate and correct funding. It also needs to conduct proper analysis of the data it receives and not just dole out what it thinks is an average cost. Some institutions will require more and some will be overfunded.

'It is mainly the newer universities that would lose out from the changes. Considering they have just gained from the changes in research funding, this is a terrible example of giving with one hand and taking with the other.'

Last updated: 11 December 2015