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Public funding for higher and further education: resource benchmarking across education sectors in the UK

19 November 2015

A report by London Economics for UCU looking at the balance of public and private funding for further and higher education across the UK.

This report examines, for the first time since the introduction of £9,000 fees, the balance of public and private funding for post-school education across the UK. It exposes dramatic variations in the level of resource per student in each of the home nations, and between further and higher education.

Authored by Gavan Conlon and Maike Halterbeck of London Economics, the report looks at the funding available per student in 2013/14, and key findings include:

  • the level of public funding per home undergraduate student is highest in Wales (£9,456pa) and Scotland (£9,016pa) with England (£8,870pa) in third place and Northern Ireland a distant last (£7,721pa)
  • the proportion of total funding required to fund an undergraduate's full-time higher education varies significantly by country. In Scotland, approximately 80% of the total cost per student comes from the public purse, compared to 70% in Wales, 68% in Northern Ireland and 63% in England
  • arising from the different funding systems in place, and different arrangements for the cross-border movements of students, there are widely diverging cross-border payments with English funding agencies contributing £259m a year to support university students studying elsewhere in the UK, Welsh funders contributing £156m for outside Wales, but Scotland spending only £11m
  • the level of public funding per eligible student is significantly lower in further education than its equivalent in higher education
  • spending on adult apprenticeships (£1,554pa) in England is just 18% of that spent on undergraduates in higher education (£8,870) with public spending on other adult courses (£1,323) standing even lower (at 15% of the higher education rate).


Last updated: 25 January 2022