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CaSE welcomes Welsh Government’s budget cut reversal

08 Feb 2016

Following intervention from CaSE and others, the Welsh Government has reversed major cuts to HE previously announced in the draft budget.

CaSE has today welcomed the Welsh Government’s reversal over plans to cut the Higher Education budget.

The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCEW) was facing cuts of £42m, around a third of its budget. However, in today’s draft budget debate in the Welsh Assembly, the Finance Minister Jane Hutt confirmed HEFCW will now have to find £11m worth of savings.

Commenting on the announcement, CaSE Director Dr Sarah Main, said:

“This is surely good news for Wales and for its future as a high-tech, innovative nation. Talented researchers and good ideas will now have a better chance of thriving in Welsh universities and companies. The £11m cut still in place will be tough to implement, but I imagine many are breathing a huge sigh of relief today that it is not the £42m cut proposed.”

​”Even in difficult times, investment in research is a ticket to future prosperity. CaSE calls on the Welsh Government to grow the HEFCW budget in real terms as part of a plan for a high-skilled, innovative Wales.”​

Also commenting, Chair of Universities Wales, Colin Riordan, said:

“We are very appreciative of the understanding that Ministers have shown for the concerns of universities following the publication of the draft budget. Whilst the funding outlook for 2016/17 remains unprecedentedly tough, we are now more confident that Welsh universities will be able to manage in the short term until future challenges can be faced.  The outcome of the forthcoming Diamond Review remains crucial to the sustainability of our universities and, alongside it, to the role our universities play in driving forward economic and social wellbeing for the benefit of the people of Wales”.

“We hope that, as a result of the cross party support universities have received through the budget process, we can build a consensus regarding the value of universities to Wales”.  

Last week, CaSE released a press release, expressing concerns over the potential 32% cut to the budget of HEFCW proposed in the Welsh Government’s draft Budget in December. This follows a letter we wrote to the Minister for Education and Skills in the Welsh Government in January, expressing concerns at the proposed HE budget cut.

See the below press release CaSE sent out last week, expressing concerns over the potential 32% cut to the budget of HEFCW proposed in the Welsh Government’s draft Budget in December:

In January CaSE wrote to the Minister for Education and Skills in the Welsh Government, expressing concerns at the 32% cut to the budget of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) proposed in the Welsh Government’s draft Budget in December.

The letter was co-signed by eight other organisations from across the science and engineering community; The Royal Society, Learned Society of Wales, Association of Medical Research Charities, Institute of Physics, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Institution of Chemical Engineers, Society of Biology, and Royal Society of Chemistry.

His response to our letter, and responses from the Government to questions posed by the Finance committee, fail to address the serious concerns over the damage the draft HEFCW budget settlement would have on Welsh universities, on the provision of valuable higher-cost subjects like science and engineering, and on quality related (QR) investment that underpins research success in Wales.

Commenting, CaSE Director Dr Sarah Main said:

“Even in difficult times, investment in research is worthwhile because it is a ticket to future prosperity – a fact the Chancellor has recognised in his plan to make the UK the best place in the world to do science and to innovate. The proposed cuts to the HEFCW budget could blow a serious hole in that plan by forcing Welsh universities to withdraw funding from talented research staff and great projects. The ramifications of this decision are likely to reach beyond university staff to students, local jobs and the high tech economy.”

“CaSE has called on the Welsh Government to reconsider this proposal and protect the HEFCW budget in real terms as part of plan for a high-skilled, innovative Wales.”

Evidence shows public investment in research is an investment that generates economic growth, attracts inward investment, creates high-value jobs and through its outputs helps us all to live happier, healthier lives.

Universities are powering the Welsh economy – generating £4.6bn of output in Wales; £2.4bn of Welsh GVA (equivalent to 4.6% of the Welsh total) and creating almost 50,000 jobs in Wales (3.4% of the Welsh total) in 2013/14. At a time when Welsh Government is making significant investments to increase GVA, the reductions being proposed to university funding would achieve the reverse, with serious consequences to the output generated and jobs created in all regions of Wales.

But the proposed cuts put Wales’ research base is at risk. Research funding through HEFCW has a multiplier effect. It provides the foundations to attract the brightest researchers, win competitive research funding and develop innovations. The proposed cuts would remove these foundations, reversing many years’ of work and investment.

Commenting, Chief Executive of the Learned Society for Wales, Professor Peter Halligan said:

“These cuts risk jeopardising the excellent work undertaken by universities and Government over the past decade to improve the quality, reputation and capacity of research, teaching and scholarship in Wales. As Wales first national academy, we are seriously concerned at the likely long term negative effect of these proposals on scholarship and research, and ultimately for the health of the economy”

As well as protecting vital research capacity, a real-terms maintenance of the HEFCW budget would protect the provision and quality of high-cost science, technology, engineering, and maths courses, which are central to opening up high-value careers to Welsh students and delivering the high-skilled workforce Wales needs for its future prosperity.