Scottish universities: current funding levels ‘serious sustainability problem’

Universities Scotland has released its manifesto for the next Scottish government, calling for an increase in teaching and research funds over the next five years

Universities Scotland has released its manifesto for the next Scottish government, calling for an increase in teaching and research funds over the next five years to tackle a “serious sustainability problem” in HE funding north of the border.

Voters in Scotland will go to the polls on Thursday 6 May – the Scottish National Party currently lead its opponents by double digits in the polls.

Universities Scotland called for a 13% increase in teaching funding during the next five-year parliament, costing taxpayers £93 million. Teaching funding had dropped by 13% since 2014/15, the organisation said, which “equates to £750 less invested in the education of every Scottish-domiciled undergraduate student”. This shortfall has created a “serious sustainability problem”, it said, which puts “pressure on staff-student ratios” and threatens Scottish HE’s “world-class reputation”.

The institution representing all of Scotland’s 16 universities and three higher education providers also called for increased funding to “protect an asset that enables Scotland to be a constructive, positive and green global partner”.

Universities Scotland wants the next parliament to review the grant model for part-time study and double capacity for “short upskilling and reskilling courses” for mature students. To do this, it suggests doubling the fund for short reskilling courses to £13.2 million. Grant funding should include those who are recently redundant but wouldn’t currently qualify for support, which is not available to those that earned more than £25,000 in the previous financial year, it added.

Loans available for Scottish-domiciled students for postgraduate study should rise to £14,000, the manifesto said, in line with England and Wales, currently set at £11,222 and £17,489 respectively. Larger loans would lower barriers for disadvantaged students who may struggle to cover the living costs associated with studying, the manifesto explained.

The organisation said Scotland lacked a commitment to increase research spending like the one set by the UK government that seeks to boost investment to 2.4% of UK GDP by 2027. It suggested topping up the research excellence grant by £50 million in 2020/21 to “restore the 17% real-terms funding erosion” since 2014/15.

Following the UK’s exit from the European Union Erasmus+ scheme, Universities Scotland called for a fund a new scholarship programme “of at least £7 million annually” to attract international students to the country. The Turing Scheme only funds outward, not inbound, student exchanges.


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