Universities respond to Scottish Government budget for higher education

Universities Scotland has responded to the Scottish Government’s budget for 2022/23 as published by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, today.

The settlement is likely to mean a real-terms cut to core HE budgets for teaching and research as COVID consequential funding delivered last year to support activity including the delivery of graduate apprenticeships is discontinued with no replacement from the block grant.

Responding to the budget settlement, Professor Sir Gerry McCormac, Convener of Universities Scotland said:

Our initial assessment is that this budget will cut university funding for teaching and research in real terms in 2022/23. This leaves universities with less resource to meet the very real needs of our students and staff and less resource to invest in university research as a driver of economic growth and as a substantial means of bringing in further investment into Scotland. We had hoped that the Scottish Government would recognise the need to invest more in our students, on a per student basis, given the huge disruption they have faced as a group and the quantifiable toll the past two years has taken on their academic and mental wellbeing. Year on year cuts to the resource invested in their education, since 2014/15, are reaching a critical point.

“It seems that universities have lost all of the COVID consequential funding from last year which addressed the first-year of multi-year commitments. It is far from clear as to how this scale of cut can possibly be absorbed by universities given our declining core budgets. Our Funding Council uses the term “emergency” to describe the impact of the pandemic on universities yet there is nothing in this budget which acknowledges this situation. Universities need to see these chronic funding challenges addressed in the multi-year spending review process next year and, more immediately, if new COVID consequential funding becomes available from the UK Government, we believe that higher education has a very strong case given its significant role in supporting the recovery.”

The Scottish Government’s 2022/23 budget is available online. HE spending plans can be found in tables 7.06 and 7.07.

Universities Scotland had called for real-terms increases in funding for the core university grants of teaching and research as well as COVID recovery-focused funding to address the re-skilling and upskilling needs of the economy. Scottish Government funding for university teaching has declined by 13% since 2014/15, to the extent that each undergraduate now has £869 less spent on their education each year compared to 2014/15.



  • You can read our full budget submission here.
  • The HE resource line for 2022/23 suggests a £21 million uplift however, this is all to fund the additional undergraduate places created in 2020 and 2021 to accommodate school leavers affected by the changed SQA exam assessments in schools during the pandemic. The funding for an increase in volume (as defined by student places) does nothing to increase the level of funding available per undergraduate student, which has been declining year on year since 2014/15 and is now reaching a critical point.
  • Last budget saw COVID consequentials fund the first year of a number of multi-year funding commitments including several hundred graduate apprenticeships (which are minimum four-year programmes) at an annual cost of circa £7 million. This funding was not stated in the budget lines for universities for 2021/22 and so the loss of this funding is less obvious from looking at the budget for 2022/23. The complete withdrawal of this funding for 2022/23 and lack of replacement additional funding for universities from within the Scottish Government block budget suggests an expectation from the Scottish Government that universities can continue to deliver this additional activity from within existing core budgets. That would further decrease the level of resource invested in every undergraduate student.
  • The Scottish Government budget for financial year (FY) 2022/23 needs to be converted into academic years (AY) by the Scottish Funding Council for 2022/23, since universities are funded for each academic year which starts in August. The Funding Council makes certain assumptions when doing that. One such assumption is that the next financial year settlement for higher education will be at least cash flat. If the financial year settlement is lower than cash flat (which, in effect,  the FY budget for 22/23 is if it has to absorb Graduate Apprenticeships within existing funding) then it will mean a steeper rate of funding cuts to universities’ core activities in the academic year 2022/23.