British Universities Will See Budget Cuts of 40% Under National Austerity Plan

By Aisha Labi and Beth McMurtrie

From: The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 22, 2010

Higher education will suffer major budget cuts under a comprehensive spending review released last week by the British government. The report outlines the coalition government’s plans to address the largest budget deficit Britain has faced outside of wartime. Almost all government departments, excluding health and overseas aid, will see their budgets cut by an average of 19 percent over four years, according to the review. Cuts of 83 billion pounds (about $131-billion) are expected to result in the elimination of 490,000 public-sector jobs.

The news for British universities is particularly bad: Excluding research support, which will remain flat, the amount of money going to higher education will decline by 40 percent over the next four years, from 7.1 billion pounds (about $11-billion) to 4.2 billion pounds (about $6.6-billion).

The research budget will be frozen at 4.6 billion pounds (about $7.3-billion), “to ensure the UK remains a world leader in science and research,” the review said. Within the higher-education budget, the government has said it will continue to pay for teaching in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. That has raised concern among some academics that the social sciences and humanities may be at risk.

In a public address outlining the spending review, George Osborne, the finance minister, referred to universities as “jewels in our economic crown” but made clear that financial upheaval is ahead. Britain’s predominantly public higher-education system is heavily dependent on government support. For most institutions, especially those that are not research-intensive, that financing forms the largest portion of their
budgets.

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