More than a third of English universities are at risk of being seriously affected by Government cuts to higher education – and the worst hit could face mergers or closure, research suggests.
A study by the University and College Union (UCU) claimed that Government plans to slash teaching budgets and raise tuition fees will leave many institutions fighting for survival.
As many as 49 out of 130 English universities face a “serious impact” as a result of the plans, with four at “very high risk”, it said.
All of those affected are newer universities or smaller specialist institutions.
Higher education is facing swingeing cuts over the next few years, with teaching budgets expected to be cut by as much as 80%. It is thought this could remove public teaching funding entirely for subjects such as humanities and the arts, with only funding for some “priority” science and maths-based subjects protected. These plans were mooted in Lord Browne’s review of student funding.
The UCU study looked at the risk factor for universities under the plans using four indicators: a university’s reliance on public funding; the proportion of public funding an institution receives for “non-priority” subjects; the number of poor students they admit – because they are more likely to be put off by higher fees or not complete a course; and reliance on fees from overseas students outside the EU.
The findings claim that four institutions – Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln, Edge Hill University, Newman University College and Norwich University College of the Arts – are at “very high risk” of potential impact.
A further 23 are high risk and 22 are high-medium risk.
Among those at high-medium risk is Sheffield Hallam University, the study claims, which falls into the constituency of under-fire Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
Mr Clegg is facing heavy pressure this week over Government plans to charge students up to £9,000 per year in tuition fees – a plan contrary to the Lib Dem election pledge to vote against any hike.