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Lord Browne's review on university funding in England

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Staff and students will have seen Tuesday's publication of the report from Lord Browne's review on university funding in England. The review recommends a significant change in the cap on the undergraduate student fees and changes to the pattern of interest rate charges on student loans.

Of course there is much yet that has to be resolved before we can be sure of the full implications of this review for Warwick or any other English university. The report will be debated and considered by both government and parliament before any of its recommendations are adopted, amended or even set aside. We also await the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) which will have a significant impact on the consequences of the Browne review if, as is expected, it includes a significant cut to University funding.

I could delay commenting until such matters are resolved but I think staff and students would value an initial response now as to what this could mean for us as a University.

Clearly we can expect that the CSR will include deep cuts in the funding of England’s universities. These cuts will pose a significant challenge for our sector, particularly as it has long been accepted that the Higher Education system is actually in need of substantially more investment rather than cuts.

Currently Universities have few, if any, options available to them to cope with such a significant cut other than the option outlined in the Browne review. Many commentators expect that Universities will have little choice but to charge an undergraduate student fee of at least £6000 simply to cope with the expected cut in University funding. If that is what we face then we can expect significant changes to the higher education landscape. Many institutions will not be as able to charge a fee level that would cover their reduced funding and will face stark choices. Universities such as Warwick that are able to raise fees, if required to do so, will become more self funded than ever. Warwick’s core grant from government could fall from around 22% of its total income to somewhere around 15%.

Once we have a much clearer understanding of how much of the Browne review will be formally adopted by the Government, and how deep the expected CSR cuts are, we will set out what we believe we will be required to do to ensure we meet those funding challenges. If this does require a significant increase in UK and EU student fees we will of course ensure that we will continue to reinvest a significant proportion of our fee income into bursary support for less well off students.

Professor Nigel Thrift
Vice Chancellor

Professor Nigel Thrift