Government outlines higher education funding priorities for 2015 to 2016
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has issued its annual Grant Letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has on 30 January 2015 issued its annual Grant Letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) – confirming that the total funding available to universities is expected to rise, as planned, from £11.1 billion to £12.1 billion in 2015 to 2016.
The letter asks HEFCE to continue to pursue priorities for supporting high quality science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) provision, widening participation in higher education and recognising the needs of small and specialist institutions. The letter highlights the themes of the Science and Innovation Strategy in recognising the importance of excellence, collaboration, agility, place and openness.
In addition to outlining spending priorities, ministers use the letter to express their support for the work universities are doing to encourage diversity, and believe more work can be done at university boardroom level. Currently only around 19% of Vice Chancellors are female.
Ministers request the Council to work with higher and further education institutions to develop innovative curricula that will help advance science, technology, engineering and maths skills and meet employer needs for recruits with greater technical expertise.
The call comes as the cap on the number of students higher education institutions can recruit is removed from the 2015 to 2016 academic year.
Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Greg Clark said: "Our universities are among our most vital assets with a worldwide reputation for excellence. By reforming the system of university finance we have allowed universities to grow even at a time of public spending constraints, permitting the historic step to abolish the cap on student numbers which had previously kept some talented people out of higher education. We have further to go, but last year’s 11% increase in the entry rate of young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds shows the momentum is now established. Investing in our universities and in our students is an investment in the future strength and prosperity of the country and this funding letter demonstrates our unswerving commitment to supporting higher education."
In the letter ministers also welcome HEFCE’s roll-out of the National Networks for Collaborative Outreach, and the results of their innovative work on higher education cold spots. Both of these have an important role to play in increasing access to university and will ensure the benefits can be felt across the whole of the UK.