Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Don Economic Armour or Face More Blood-Letting, Says Hefce's Leader

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Don Economic Armour or Face More Blood-Letting, Says Hefce's Leader

Article excerpt

Higher education may become a prime target for government cuts unless the sector presents a compelling case for its importance within the wider economy, the head of England's funding council has warned.

Speaking at the Higher Education Funding Council for England's annual conference, Sir Alan Langlands said that university leaders had to be prepared to spell out why the government should maintain state support for universities ahead of the next spending review, scheduled for 2015.

Comparing universities with other parts of the public sector, Sir Alan said: "We need to be alert, year by year ... to the fact that higher education looks pretty well-heeled.

"With the combination of Hefce (money) and fee funding, if you are sitting in the Treasury, (overall funding) begins to look very generous."

The former chief executive of the NHS in England said that the sector needed to debate whether "it was reasonable to have a public contribution of 30 per cent" towards support for students.

In last year's higher education White Paper, the government estimated that 30 per cent of the total value of student loans would never be repaid.

"All of us need to have a position on these things before the next spending review," Sir Alan said.

He suggested that the sector needed a "new narrative" to challenge cuts, primarily based on how universities helped to stimulate economic growth.

On wider government policy, he said: "It's all about growth and we cannot duck that.

"We need to recognise that higher education institutions are anchors (within communities) in relation to economic growth, and we should expect others to want to build their ideas for economic development around universities. …

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