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Report warns Scotland’s university sector is a 'declining system under pressure'

Image credit: Universities Scotland

Report warns Scotland’s university sector is a 'declining system under pressure'

A new report published by the European Universities Association (EUA) has described Scotland’s university sector as “a declining system under pressure” based on the pace of funding cuts over the long term.

The Public Funding Observatory Report 2018 compares the level of public resource invested in universities in countries across Europe and has found the funding situation for Scotland’s universities to be in “sustained decline”.

The EUA found that 14 European countries chose to increase levels of investment in higher education over the period 2008-2017, while only 11 countries chose to cut funding.

Professor Andrea Nolan, convener of Universities Scotland, said: “For an independent report to say that Scottish higher education is a ‘declining system under pressure’ is significant both for Scottish Government and for our reputation internationally.

“If we act now, we can avoid the danger zone and move our universities, their staff and students in a more positive long-term direction.

“Ministers need to invest in higher education as a key driver of sustainable growth, which is the approach other small, advanced economies like Norway, Sweden and Denmark have taken.”

The same report described Sweden and Norway as being in a “sustained growing pattern” with significant and comparable funding increases and modest increases in student numbers.

The worst category for universities to find themselves in, within the EUA report, is that of a “system in danger” where sustained and deep cuts to funding and increasing student numbers threaten universities. The Republic of Ireland and Serbia are the two countries listed as a “system in danger”.

Universities Scotland said the EUA report should be seen as an urgent call to action.

Nolan added: “We can’t risk one of Scotland’s key strengths. The Scottish Government can choose to reverse the cuts and build towards an ambitious vision for its universities and our contribution to our nation’s success.

“Scottish universities are working hard to protect excellent teaching and research, but core funding is £127 million below 2014 levels in real terms, and this is before universities have to find the means to pay imminent increases in pension costs.”

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