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What to expect from BIS’s grant letter to HEFCE

23 February 2016
Julie Tam

Julie Tam

Deputy Director of Policy
Universities UK
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills


Following the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) last year, it was not clear what the immediate impact on higher education funding in England would be. It indicated how funding would change up to 2019–20, but not before.

In the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ (BIS) grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), we will see the revised numbers, following in-year cuts, and the impact for 2016–17.

Below, we set out what we’re expecting, and what we’re hoping for.

Research funding

What to expect: An indication of how much of the £4.7 billion science budget will go to quality-related (QR) funding in England, and how much to research councils. A separate announcement might be made on how much each research council will receive.

How much of the government’s £6.9 billion commitment to research capital will be spent in 2016-17. Some of this funding has already been committed, but UUK estimates between £3.9 and £4.1 billion remains to be allocated between 2016 and 2021 – the background to our calculations (members area​).

What we’re hoping for: That the government’s commitment to protect the science budget in real terms is sincere, and no additional items have been included (which would be a surreptitious cut in funding). We hope the numbers confirm there has been no ‘tucking in’ of the global challenges fund.

Teaching funding

What to expect: The impact on 2016–17 of a £120 million cut to teaching funding by 2019–20, including whether cuts to student opportunity funding will commence, whether there is any money for teaching capital, and the amount of high cost subject funding available per student.

What we’re hoping for: Cuts to student opportunity funding should not start in 2016–17, as institutions have already submitted their plans for access agreements this year.  Cuts this soon would be disruptive to students and universities.  Additional time will help institutions prepare. We hope government recognises successful student outcomes are not just about widening access, but retention is important too.

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