Universities face an untenable future, the Scottish government has been warned just days ahead of its annual budget.
The “real pressure” on university finances is recognised by the Scottish government, Paul Johnston, director general for learning, told a public audit committee meeting on 1 December, but any decisions must reflect the wider context. The government is having “constructive discussions” with the Scottish Funding Council and Universities Scotland as part of its strategy finance group, he said. It is also addressing the issue through the student support review group, which will meet for the first time on 5 December.
However Johnston said that the government has to take decisions on universities in the budget, which is due on 12 December, that do not jeopardise other institutions dependent on public funding, such as further education. Pressed by MSPs on whether the government was allowing university finances to deteriorate through "slow erosion", after an Audit Scotland report in July warned that public funding is insufficiently targeted, Johnston said the government and institutions must "work closely, imaginatively, fully to secure continued success".