London the big loser in university funding for 2020-21

Emerging a few hours behind today’s policy tsunami like an embarrassed uncle at a wedding was the Westminster government’s annual teaching grant letter to the sector.

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe

There are some big headlines here, and some interesting detail. The sector-wide news of note is that there is to be an increase to the amount allocated through the main “high-cost subject funding” method, but only for subjects that DfE has identified as both high-cost and “strategically important”.

STEM and health courses are the winners (up £85m), and there’s a reduction of 50 per cent to high-cost subject funding for other courses in what’s known as price group C1 – performing arts, creative arts, media studies and archaeology (a cut of £20m).

You’ve got to have quite the brass neck to try to get away with this sentence:

The levelling-up agenda is key to this government, and we think it is inconsistent with this to invest additional money in London providers, the only such regional weighting that exists in the grant.

…but it’s in there. The London-targeted bit of T funding and London weightings in student premium funding will all be killed off entirely from 2021-22 – so it’s not a fun time to be a university (or a student) in London doing anything that isn’t STEM or health, especially in the post-92s who take a larger share of student premium. A regional impact analysis in the document shows the impact here – it’s levelling, alright, but it’s not levelling up.

There’s a corresponding increase of £10m for small and specialist providers – so there’s some limited rebalancing if you’re creative, in London, or both – but only if you’re not in a big multi disciplinary provider.

WP types have been waiting on news of the fate of the budget for Uni Connect, and it’s bad news- that goes from £60m to £40 million, with the savings going on £5m for student hardship and £15m for mental health. Tiny offshoots from the main magic money twig, in reality.

Finally, capital funding for providers will be distributed through a bidding competition rather than a formula method, and students from the Crown Dependencies will be subject to home fee status and counted for funding purposes.

That all shakes out like this – it’s basically an £11m increase, which at the macro level is arguably better than some of the predictions given what else is happening.

The most alarming table of all? Like I said, it’s levelling, but it’s not levelling up.

One response to “London the big loser in university funding for 2020-21

  1. There’s another effective cut in there that affects a part of the sector more – the confirmation that premium funding is to continue to do the work of a hardship fund in 21/22. This will mean de-funding all the things that used to be funded. These were things that brought extra funds to support students and which now needs to shore up all the things that Government won’t fund.

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