IOP is vigilant on funding teaching costs in HE

20 February 2014

The IOP is keeping vigilant to ensure that the costs of teaching STEM students are fully met as universities wait to hear their individual funding allocations from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). These are expected to be made public on 27 March.

HEFCE stated on 10 February that its settlement from BIS would mean reductions in its funding for higher education institutions in 2014-15 and again in 2015-16 “beyond those accounted for by the switch to publicly-funded tuition fees”. It said the government had asked it to deliver the reductions in ways that protect, as far as possible, high-cost subjects including STEM, widening participation, and small and specialist institutions.

The IOP’s science policy manager, Tajinder Panesor, said: “We hope that the cuts announced to HEFCE’s budget for teaching are indeed made in a way that continues to protect STEM students and that the money allocated to STEM covers the basic cost of teaching them. At the moment, student numbers are healthy for physics, and anecdotally we have heard that applications are rocketing. But having more students places pressure on institutions for lab space and lecture space. Now more than ever the student experience has to be more than just satisfactory and we will keep an eye on this to ensure that the costs of teaching STEM continue to be met.”

Earlier this month, the IOP warmly welcomed the government’s decision to allocate additional funding to running the UK’s national science facilities and for its subscriptions to international facilities such as CERN. Announcing the decision, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) said that this would avoid cost pressures in these areas affecting its core programme. The programme will, however, continue to receive flat cash. Panesor said that the IOP was pleased that the ring fence for science spending would continue, but in the longer term the UK had to invest even more in science if it was to compete with nations such as China and India that were ploughing resources into research and innovation.

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