South East Wales

Welsh universities face £80m gap in funding

Welsh universities are losing out by almost £80m per year compared to their English counterparts.

Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) analysis shows that in 2007/8 government funding per student was about £900 less than in England.

The assembly government says it expects to see the gap abolished with "more generous" funding over coming years.

News of the funding gap comes as the HEFCW announces funding cuts of 4% - £15m in total - this year.

"We've learned to cope," said Swansea University vice chancellor Professor Richard Davies. "In fact, our motto is 'more for less'," he said.

He said if funding was the same as in England, Swansea University would receive an extra £6m a year in its budget - currently about £160m a year.

"The remarkable thing about Wales is how well we do in the annual national student survey which records the views of all final year students on the quality of the education they've received," he said.

'Substantial investment'

In Wales, responsibility for education is devolved to the Welsh assembly.

In November, the assembly government announced plans to absorb a rise in basic tuition fees for students from Wales attending any UK university.

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said: "We provide substantial investment to fund delivery of higher education in Wales - both in terms of student finance and institutional provision.

"In November, the minister made a significant announcement regarding the future of fees in Wales which will ensure that the level of teaching grant support available to Welsh HE institutions will be higher than that available to English institutions.

"Our proposals are more generous over forthcoming years than are predicted for England where teaching budgets are set to fall, thus effectively abolishing the so-called public funding gap."

The HEFCW calculated that in 2007/8 it would have cost the assembly government up to £69m to plug the university funding gap with England.

It projected the figure would rise to £78m in the year 2008/9.

HEFCW chief executive Professor Philip Gummett said: "We have been working with the higher education sector in Wales to help prepare for changes in public funding.

"While we asked them to be prudent in their planning assumptions generally, we also advised them about the possible implications of the 2011-12 assembly budget on their funding for the 2010/11 academic year, recommending that they make contingency plans to accommodate any potential fluctuations.

"Subject to confirmation next month, we have asked universities to plan for a 4% reduction."

Welsh Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Jenny Randerson AM said she suspected the promise of the gap being abolished by Labour-Plaid will be "another financial promise that falls apart after the election".

She added: "For years we have been promised a closing of the gap, for years Labour have failed."

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