University funding cuts deeper than expected for half of institutions

The Scottish Funding Council has today (Thursday, 28 February) announced its indicative funding allocations for universities for academic year 2019/20. This is the first time funding allocations have been published for individual institutions following the Scottish Government’s budget announcement on 12 December 2018, which announced a real terms cut of 1.79 per cent to the total funding available to universities.

Responding to the funding allocations, Professor Andrea Nolan, Convener of Universities Scotland and Principal of Edinburgh Napier University said:

“Today’s funding allocations throw a stark light on the challenging budget outcome for universities. Every university faces a real terms cut* and half of institutions are facing real term cuts of 2 per cent or more.

“University funding has already been cut by £127.6m** a year in real terms since 2014/15 and the sector’s pension bill alone is set to increase by £23 million a year. Deeper real terms cuts mean that some institutions will struggle to make ends meet, eroding their capacity to deliver fully for Scotland’s success.

 “There’s a separate pot of funding available to the Scottish Government via Barnett consequentials, created as a result of additional spend on research and innovation in England, that could be passed onto universities in-year to help mitigate these acute financial pressures. We urge it to do so and we urge the Funding Council to talk to the sector about how they allocate that funding.”  



*The University of Stirling would appear to be an exception to this but that is based on an increase in the number of student places it will have in 2019/20 (as a result of the nursing transfer to the University of the Highlands and Islands) rather than an increase in funding per student or research funding.

**see table 2b of the 16 Jan Spice Brief for the Scottish Parliament’s Education & Skills Committee.

  • Table 7 of the Scottish Funding Council’s allocations shows the funding allocations for teaching, research and innovation in 2019/20 by institution relative to 2018/19. Column 4 shows the percentage change between years in funding in cash terms. The table below includes Universities Scotland’s own analysis to show what this means for institutions in real terms, after inflation is considered. Nine institutions are facing real terms cuts of 2 per cent or more.
  • In December, Universities Scotland responded to the real terms cut in funding for higher education saying that it would be “really difficult”.
  • Based on the Scottish Government’s December budget, universities were the only part of the education sector to face a real terms cut to funding.

The Scottish Government’s budget is published for financial year 2019/20. The Funding Council then converts the budget announcement into academic year 2019/20 and applies its funding models for teaching, research and innovation grants amongst others which creates the allocations for individual institutions.