A brutal set of funding allocations for Wales’ universities

The perilous state of Wales’ public finances has translated into swingeing cuts to teaching and research funding

Michael Salmon is News Editor at Wonkhe

HEFCW’s last ever annual funding allocations are a serious blow to the Welsh sector’s finances.

From August the new Commission for Tertiary Education and Research (Medr) will taking over stuff like this, and it’s a perilous inheritance for a new regulator with (presumably) big plans and ambitious new strategic duties.

As the table below sets out, overall there is a 6.5 per cent cut in “total” funds – this includes teaching, research and for a couple of institutions strategic funding, but not certain additional items such as apprenticeships, medical and dental school places, and mental health funding. And this is cash terms, disregarding the effects of inflation. Every university has seen its budget cut quite substantially.

InstitutionTotal for academic year 2024–25 (£)Change from 2023–24 (£)Change from 2023-24
University of South Wales14,117,373-1,159,086-7.60%
Aberystwyth University10,668,593-1,113,631-9.50%
Bangor University12,350,439-600,170-4.60%
Cardiff University66,311,447-3,666,455-5.20%
University of Wales Trinity Saint David5,064,688-830,376-14.10%
Swansea University25,915,885-2,376,595-8.40%
Cardiff Metropolitan University6,462,459-415,772-6.00%
Wrexham University3,363,871-251,858-7.00%
Open University in Wales21,243,199-1,006,540-4.50%

While “baseline funding” has been maintained for the different elements overall (QR, PGR training, Research Wales Innovation Fund, full-time and part-time undergraduate, and credit-based and premia teaching funding for postgraduate), this has been followed by a £11m pro rata reduction to the total, leading to the numbers above.

Funds come to institutions as block grants, and HEFCW leaves it to individual institutions to “determine their own priorities in deciding how to manage reduced allocations.” This means there is no particular decision made about where the cuts fall across the breadth of universities’ activities – each will need to decide.

The reason for this is in part the Welsh government’s 2024–25 budget, which was pretty terrible for universities and students when it first appeared in draft form last December. But it’s also based on an estimate of the 2025–26 Welsh government budget, as part of that financial year intrudes on the 2024–24 academic year – the calculation here is usually 60 per cent of the first financial year’s budget, and 40 per cent of the next.

It’s also noted that actual funding could differ, and there remains the risk that the actual funding in-year being lower than set out in these allocations.

We also see spending on PGT master’s bursaries drop from £3.1m to £0.8m – as these have now been replaced by loans, for all but those on part-time programmes who are entering their second year next year. The savings the Welsh government has made here haven’t meant that pain is spared elsewhere. When all the different elements are totted up, total revenue and capital spend by HECFW (or, from August, by Medr) will drop to £198.7m, from £219.3m in 2023–24.

2 responses to “A brutal set of funding allocations for Wales’ universities

    1. Brutal may be strong, but to say it equates to 0.58% of sector turnover underplays the role this funding plays in universities’ ability to deliver teaching and research. It’s well rehearsed on Wonkhe and elsewhere, but Hefcw funding underpins a university’s ability to generate its wider income (whether fees or research grants). Cuts to Hefcw income make it more difficult to sustain the existing level of teaching and research provision.

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