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Scottish universities to get extra funds in 2012

Scottish universities are to receive an increase in teaching and research grants averaging around 14 per cent for the 2012-13 academic year, according to figures announced by the Scottish Funding Council on 21 December.

The SFC is budgeting a total of a little over £1 billion in funding for Scottish higher education, with a 15.5 per cent increase in research and knowledge transfer grants to £257.5 million.

Teaching grants will grow 13 per cent to £615.7m and there will be further increases in strategic funds and grants to help establish a network of Scottish Technology and Innovation Centres.

The council’s calculations are based on figures in the draft Scottish budget which has to be approved by the Scottish assembly next March.

The proposed allocations are more generous than many expected but have been offered in the expectation that universities will cooperate fully with the Scottish government’s plans for reforming higher education. These include plans to accelerate the switch from the traditional four-year Scottish university degree to a three-year course.

Universities are also expected to contribute to the government’s economic targets by improving collaboration with industry and the commercial exploitation of university research.

The Scottish government plans to create new agreements with the universities setting out their future responsibilities when receiving public funding. This will include widening access to higher education and improvements in the employability of graduates.

Scottish education secretary Michael Russell said, “Our universities make a vital contribution to our economy and to the career prospects of so many young people. That is why I am pleased the budget set by the Scottish government has allowed for a generous funding settlement that reflects this important role.”

As well as providing specific allocations for the Technology and Innovation Centres, the budget proposals provide funding for other initiatives intended to support the government’s economic strategy. They include support for the “Easy Access IP” initiative for universities and industry to share intellectual property, and a single knowledge transfer office for Scotland.

The extra funding will provide 300 more places in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and allow a significant expansion of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Overall, the proposals will enable Scottish universities to offer places for 83,750 Scottish and non-UK European Union undergraduates next year.

Mark Batho, chief executive of the SFC, noted that “this indicative funding settlement for 2012-13 provides a basis for Scottish universities and higher education institutions to continue to enhance their role in supporting Scotland’s society and economy.”