Universities Brace Themselves For 'Horrific' Funding Cuts To Come This Year
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English universities are bracing themselves for steep funding cuts that could be announced later this year.
The government is currently considering proposals that would lower the their future exposure to unpaid student loans - a number that is currently growing by roughly £10bn a year.
Speaking to the Guardian, one vice-chancellor said the spending review expected in the autumn was ‘looking horrific’ for universities, as concerns grow that Boris Johnson’s ‘lifetime skills guarantee’ – offering all adults four years’ worth of education or training – will add billions to the government’s exposure to unpaid student loans.
One option reportedly being discussed is to cut the annual tuition fee from £9,250 to £7,500, while other suggestions on the table are to increase the amount that graduates repay, by extending the repayment window and lowering the minimum income at which you make repayments from the current £27,295 a year.
Limiting the number of university students eligible for loans each year has also been discussed.
This could be achieved through the introduction of minimum entry requirements based on GCSE grades, or the government reintroducing limits on student numbers possibly by capping the numbers on courses such as humanities or social sciences, while allowing uncapped recruitment for favoured subjects such as nursing or sciences, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).
University leaders who spoke to the Guardian said it was unclear as yet what steps would be taken. “We know something is coming and that it’s going to be bad. We just don’t know what it is yet,” said one vice-chancellor.
Downing Street advisers have reportedly said that across-the-board tuition fee cuts will do greatest harm to universities that rely on tuition fees income, which could in turn damage employment opportunities in a number of towns across England, while leaders of some Russell Group universities, whose income is supported by research funding, admit that tuition-fee cuts create would still be risky even to them.
Even at their current level, tuition fees do not cover the full cost of teaching some subjects such as health, sciences and engineering, which receive top-up teaching grants, meaning they would require inc erased funding while the Department for Education (DfE) has already planned for cuts in the grants of up to 50% for a number of creative arts courses.
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