Supporting the economy through the recession and building a framework for the future of higher education are the two key priorities Universities Secretary, John Denham has set for the sector
22 January 2009
In his annual grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) John Denham has asked the Council to support and encourage the sector to use its huge resources to help deal with the consequences of the current economic climate and to lay the foundations for the future.
With equal priority, Denham has also asked for advice while developing a framework for the next 10 - 15 years to ensure that the higher education system remains world class in years to come.
He also recognises the need for HEFCE to maintain high levels of funding for those institutions with the largest volumes of world-class research whilst nurturing pockets of excellence elsewhere. John Denham will also ask HEFCE to explore ways to remove barriers to research partnerships between universities and both charities and businesses.
He also confirmed following indications in October that there will be funding for 10,000 additional student numbers this year. This means that in 2009/10 there will be 30,000 more funded students than in 2007/08. Numbers for 2010/11 will be allocated later in the year.
Mr Denham said:
"The past ten years have seen record levels of investment in universities and colleges. By 2011, funding for higher education will have increased by over 30 per cent in real terms since 1997, which reflects the Government's belief that a well funded, successful, independent higher education sector is a vital part of our economic infrastructure, both locally and nationally.
"One of my main priorities for the Council in 2009 is to support and encourage the sector to use all of its huge capacity to train, research, innovate and inspire, reaching into local communities to offer practical help to individuals and businesses through these tougher economic times while laying the foundations for the future."
Key priorities for higher education include:
- Continuing to give a high priority to widening participation and fair access strengthening links between universities, schools and colleges;
- The 'New University challenge', which will see funding for 20 new local higher education centres approved or opened in the next six years.;
- Promoting excellence in research, science and innovation, rewarding the highest levels of research excellence wherever it is found;
- Promotion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines which are subjects employers need in the long term;
- Linking capital funding to performance in reducing emissions; and
- Following good progress, continue to promote Foundation Degrees and employer co funded paces.
Notes to Editors:
1. HEFCE distributes public money for teaching and research to universities and colleges. The grant letter can be found at http://www.hefce.ac.uk/news/hefce/2009/grant/
2. The total HEFCE grant in 2008/09 was £7.073bn. The total HEFCE grant for 09-10 is £7.809bn.
3. Funded student numbers are for full time equivalent students.
4. Higher education funding, including support for students, has increased
over 23 per cent in real terms from 1997/98 to 2007/08 and, taking account of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), will have increased by over 30 per cent in real terms between 1997/98 and 2010/11.
5. Framework for next 10 - 15 years will come out of a wider debate that is going on about the future of higher education that involves contributions from the sector as well as users. John Denham outlines his vision in a speech at the Wellcome Trust Read the speech here.
6. A consultation for the New University Challenge was launched in March 2008 aiming to open 20 new higher education centres in the next six years. So far there have been over 27 expressions of interest. For more information go to http://www.dius.gov.uk.
7. RAE 2008 is a UK-wide exercise administered on behalf of the four UK higher education funding bodies by the RAE team based at HEFCE's offices in Bristol. Results for RAE 2008 are available at http://www.hefce.ac.uk.
8. HEFCE's approach to building employer engagement and co-funding
approaches reflects research findings which suggest there is latent demand for higher level skills within the workforce but releasing it will require changes to the design, delivery and funding of learning to be more responsive to market needs. The research, Higher Education in the Workforce: Barriers and Facilitators to Employer Engagement by Marilyn Wedgwood and Employer Engagement in Course Development: Student and Employer Perceptions of its Impact - A Review of Research by the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI Centre) are available on the DIUS internet at http://www.dius.gov.uk/research/.
9. The Government is actively encouraging universities to form long-term deep relationships with schools. A prospectus was launched on 2007 which sets out how such joint working can benefit both universities and schools with universities spearheading efforts to raise the aspirations of pupils, teachers and parents, driving up standards and supporting university applications. The prospectus is available at http://www.dius.gov.uk/publications.
10. A Foundation Degree is a higher education qualification which integrates academic study with work-based learning. Courses are developed in partnership with employers, ensuring that graduates acquire the necessary skills and knowledge required in the workplace. They continue to grow in popularity as both students and employers appreciate the innovative nature of these qualifications, which enable individuals to develop their careers whilst helping business to retain talent and increase productivity. With nearly 73,000 students enrolled in 2007-08, we are well on the way towards meeting our ambition for 100,000 Foundation degree students by 2010.
11. This year's HEFCE grant letter will be available January 2009 at http://www.hefce.ac.uk.