Scots universities at risk of closure

by Neal Wallace

Proposed spending cuts mean universities and colleges across Scotland may be forced to close or face huge job losses, MSPs were warned yesterday.

Mark Batho, chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), which allocates funding to higher education institutions, warned that the higher education sector faces cuts of 16 per cent, around £250m. This means compromises will have to be made in order to save colleges and universities, include ceasing numerous courses or laying off staff.

Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said he was “very, very concerned” at the proposed cuts, adding: “That would lead straight to the sort of circumstances of significant job losses, significant loss of provision, significant loss of quality and, frankly, a bizarre situation where Scotland, potentially along with England, would be retreating from investment in higher education.”

Scotland must find a "uniquely Scottish solution" to funding. (Photo by cna)

The news comes in the wake of last month’s Browne review, which recommended lifting the cap on tuition fees in England. This would give English universities the opportunity to charge up to £9000 a year. The highest charging institutions would then pool their money into a central pot, used to encourage poorer students to attend university.

First Minister Alex Salmond and Scottish Eduction Secretary Michael Russell have both ruled out bringing in tuition fees for Scottish students. Salmond has reiterated on a number of occasions that they must find a “uniquely Scottish solution” to the funding crisis.

Russell added: “Scotland has its own education system, its own needs, demands and strengths”, and confirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to funding higher education.

A report in the Sunday Times last week suggested that English students looking to escape the fee hike by applying to Scottish universities may be charged the same as they would south of the border. This is seen as an attempt to stop Scottish universities being swamped by English applicants.

Universities Scotland has said the only solution to the funding crisis was to have a graduate contribution from the highest earning alumni, meaning they pay more for their education. The move has not been ruled out by the Scottish Government.

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