Thursday, 22 December 2011

More Christmas Spirit

When a Russell Group Vice Chancellor calls for funding to be taken away from universities that teach poor people, and given instead to universities that teach science, it is easy to see that as just another example of the Christian spirit of generosity that comes over all of us (to a greater or lesser extent) at Christmas. The way David Eastwood lavishes praise on the Browne Review whilst modestly avoiding any mention of his own role in the review is also, surely, praiseworthy.

Reporting in the Higher suggests that at least some of the less posh fear he is pushing at a half-open door as Treasury wants to withdraw the Widening Participation funding as a cost-saving measure. There are a number of funding streams associated with WP. For 2011/12 they break down as follows:

  • Widening Participation £141,630,239 (allocated on the basis of postcode data to identify students from low-participation areas, and Disabled Students Allowance data to identify disabled students);
  • Teaching Enhancement and Student Success £263,856,011 (allocated primarily on the basis of students' age and entry qualifications);
  • Other targeted allocations £203,550,592 (a grab-bag not all of which is WP-related, but including support for part time, accelerated and Foundation Degree programmes).
The WP and TESS funding goes primarily to new Universities. Leeds gets £1,106,592 and £1,141,339 respectively, which are non-trivial sums even in an overall HEFCE grant of £134,237,874 (1.7% of grant), but Leeds Met gets £1,679,582 for WP and £4,437,660 for TESS out of £63,460,810 (9.6%).

You can see how it would be painful and difficult for the coalition to withdraw this funding, however, because it directly supports the supposed Government priority of fair access for all. David Eastwood is formidably well-connected, but I wouldn't bet on him having a hotline to Santa this time.

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