Education: Universities plead for more cash

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University leaders yesterday warned the Government they could do nothing to fulfil its goals of wider access to high-quality higher education without an injection of more than pounds 120m into the sector next year.

Vice-chancellors meeting in Glasgow laid down the challenge after it emerged ministers plan to bring forward an announcement on university funding to within the next fortnight.

They made clear that an additional sum of pounds 120m, which would reduce a cut in the higher education budget from 6.5 per cent to 1 per cent, would be the minimum they would accept.

Anything less would damage quality and jeopardise the long-term future of the sector, according to Professor Martin Harris, chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals.

However, universities insist up to pounds 230m more is essential if they are to implement any of the improvements recommended by the Dearing committee on higher education, which reported last July. The committee, which recommended the introduction of tuition fees, said an increased contribution from students should be rewarded with higher-quality education, guaranteed standards and wider access to universities.

It remained unclear yesterday whether an expected extra sum for universities, likely to be announced at the Labour Party conference, would match the minimum laid down by vice-chancellors.

The higher education minister, Baroness Blackstone, addressing the CVCP residential conference on Wednesday, asked for patience as the Government finalised funding details but hinted at good news amid rumours of an extra pounds 100m being made available.