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.