Reduced funding could jeopardise universities’ competitive advantage, says Russell Group

Janet Downs's picture
“The UK’s leading universities provide some of the best tertiary level education in the world,” said Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group of universities.

But the latest OECD Education at a Glance report revealed cuts in the public funding of UK universities. “The UK’s total investment [public and private] in higher education amounts to just 1.4% of GDP: half that of the USA, and below the OECD average,” Dr Piatt wrote. State investment is only 0.7% of GDP. This is less than in any Western European country and lower than the OECD and EU 21 averages. The UK is now ranked 25 out of 31 countries for expenditure per student in higher education.

The Government likes to use OECD league tables to support its policies even when their interpretation is misleading.  But Government comments about the low ranking for the amount of investment in higher education are likely to be muted.

Dr Piatt concluded:

“As the UK’s economic competitiveness becomes increasingly dependent upon high-tech industries and skilled graduates, our leading research-intensive universities will be crucial to future growth and prosperity. Of course, there is a cost involved in ensuring universities are adequately resourced, but the costs of not doing so are much greater.”

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