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Changes in University Finances

It was reported last week that £890 million worth of government student loans have been sold to a debt management consortium. Meanwhile, postgraduate students are to see a significant increase in funding in the upcoming year.

Student debts from 1990-1998 have been sold off by the Government to a private Debt Collection agency, Erudio Student Loans. Whilst ministers have claimed that the £160 million deal is a fair price for the loans, others have spoken out against the very idea of a private company making money off public debt. Many fear the precedence it sets and its possible consequences.

In other student finance news, around £350 million of public money is to go towards funding 70 new training centres for around 3,500 postgraduate students to gain a PhD alongside the work-based skills and knowledge needed in the key industries of engineering and science. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has allocated the money for these Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) which will be set up at 24 UK universities.

Funding has been targeted at the areas which are vital to the UK’s future economy. A total of 1000 partners will be involved in the Centres, leveraging in around £250 million worth of support. Sir James Dyson, founder of Dyson, whose firm is involved in several of the CDTs, note that: “To compete internationally Britain needs to export world-beating inventions which are the result of intellectual property developed by our companies and universities.”

EPSRC chair Paul Golby has stated: “The standard of applications for Centres was very high and more could have been funded if we had the capacity.” This suggests the company may announce a further group of Centres if more resources can be secured. Science Minister David Willetts has also said: “I am particularly pleased to see strong partnerships between universities, industry and business among the new centres announced today. This type of collaboration is a key element of our industrial strategy and will continue to keep us at the forefront of the global science race.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Business is considering cutting the same amount given to the funding for this scheme from grants given to students coming from poor backgrounds. In an attempt to balance the nation’s finances, documents from said department have revealed plans to eradicate up to £350 million in grants to students, affecting up to 500,000 students from lower income backgrounds. Shadow Universities Minister Liam Byrne has commented: “This is fresh evidence that ministers have lost control of university finances and now the country’s students and science might pay the price. Vince Cable needs to come clean immediately on what on earth is going on, and how he’s going to clear it up.”

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