Capital universities among big losers in funding cuts

EDINBURGH'S Napier and Queen Margaret universities are among the biggest losers in the share-out of next year's £1.5 billion funding for further and higher education revealed today.

Scottish universities and colleges face an overall funding reduction of around eight per cent.

Teaching budgets will fall by 10.9 per cent for all institutions.

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Research funding has been maintained at the same level as last year in cash terms, but the Scottish Funding Council has decided to focus more money on the highest quality research.

Napier will see its research cash cut by 6.6 per cent and Queen Margaret's will be reduced by 10.9 per cent. Edinburgh University, by contrast, will have a 0.4 per cent increase in its research budget. Heriot-Watt will see a one per cent cut.

Napier and Queen Margaret are, however, among six newer universities to receive extra funding to help them teach students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Leading figures in Scottish higher education fear the funding pattern could mark the start of a two-tier education system with some concentrating on top-flight research and others on teaching.

SFC chief executive Mark Batho said: "Students will have the same opportunity to apply for a place at college or university for 2011-12 because existing student numbers are being maintained.

"We have focused funding in key areas to encourage wider access to universities and colleges, and to support excellence in research, which is important to the economic development of Scotland."

The University and College Union said the funding cuts risked Scotland's institutions falling behind on the world stage.

Scottish official Mary Senior said: "The cut in higher education funding is much more severe than the overall cut in the Scottish budget.

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"The rest of the world is investing in higher education and we risk being left behind if we continue to wrongly think that we can cut education."

In a further blow to Scotland's newer universities, official figures today showed a plan to charge English students more for studying here - proposed in the Scottish Government's green paper on future higher education funding - could end up benefiting just four universities.

Edinburgh, St Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen account for 75 per cent of English students coming to university in Scotland.

If the annual fee charged to students from south of the Border was increased to 6000 per student, Edinburgh University could net an extra 33 million.