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"Serious Challenges" ahead for local university as cuts announced

John Freeman
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Cumbria has warned that Higher Education faces "serious challenges" after Coalition government announced cuts for the sector.

The Chancellor George Osborne has announced that the higher education budget will be cut by 40 per cent in today's Comprehensive Spending Review, with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills - which is responsible for further and higher education - seeing its budget fall by 21%, from £18.6 billion this year to £14.6 billion in 2014-5.
"The Government's comprehensive spending review has raised serious challenges for the Higher Education sector," commented University of Cumbria Vice Chancellor Professor Graham Upton.
"The University of Cumbria will now have to examine the proposals in detail and analyse the implications they have for us. We will need to do this alongside the recommendations in the Browne review of student finances which were published last week which proposed radical changes in the fees students will have to pay."

Education Investor reports that Treasury documents released today suggest that "reforming Higher and Further Education funding which will deliver broadly 65 per cent" of the £3 billion cuts in BIS's resource budget.
The higher education budget, excluding research funding, will fall by 40 per cent, from £7.1 billion at present to £4.2 billion by 2014-5.
"We have already begun to undertake scenario planning about how we might most effectively respond to these changes in Government funding and policy and will continue to do that over coming weeks as the specific implications of the proposals become clearer," the Vice Chancellor says.

"The future funding of Higher Education and student finance will impact on the sector and individual universities and students in different ways. At the University of Cumbria we are committed to widening participation and opening up opportunities for potential students. However, we recognise that increased tuition fees may provide universities with opportunities to generate increased revenue to further invest in facilities and services in support of a high quality student experience. It may be that increased tuition fees will have to be used to offset the predicted cuts in public investment in Higher Education.

"In preparing and agreeing our budget for 2010-11 and beyond we have already taken steps to anticipate and plan for potential cuts in our finances that might be signalled by the CSR," he added. "Working proactively, the university has already built into its budget planning a reduction in its grant funding of between 25 - 33% and this year, for the first time in our history we are projecting a surplus. I am confident that this surplus of £2 million is achievable as we have made provision for a range of contingencies, made no assumptions about additional income.

"Nonetheless the size and scale of the proposed reduction in funding that were announced today will have major implications for the Higher Education sector and like every other university we shall have to consider very carefully our response to the challenges that lie ahead."

In addition to Higher Education cuts, the further education budget will also be slashed, by 25 per cent, from £4.3 billion today to £3.2 billion in 2014-15. This is bound to have an impact on Lancaster and Morecambe College of Further Education.
The science budget, however, will be maintained in cash terms, which may help Lancaster Univerisity, which is strong in the technology and science fields. The government has also pledged to "boost spending on adult apprenticeships by £250 million a year", funding up to 75,000 extra apprenticeship places a year, which may offer new opportunities at Lancaster's Adult College.