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There is no university funding crisis, says Michelle Donelan

Image: The Conservative Party [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0], via Flickr

Science secretary assures Lords committee that her department is “across” concerns about higher education finances

UK science secretary Michelle Donelan has dismissed concerns that the university sector is facing a funding crisis.

Appearing in front of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, Donelan was asked about concerns that the current university funding model in England is in a critical condition.

With maximum tuition fees frozen at £9,250 since 2017 and concerns being raised about the number of lucrative international students that universities are recruiting, there are widespread fears of a financial crunch. A number of universities have announced cost-cutting exercises, including redundancy schemes. 

“Do we think it’s a crisis? No, we do not,” Donelan said. “Are we working closely with the Department for Education to make sure that we’re across the financial health of the universities that are leading on research and that we are making sure that our policies are delivering? Absolutely.”

When asked whether there was sufficient cross-departmental work between the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and the Department for Education, Donelan assured the peers that policy relating to the financial stability of higher education providers “definitely doesn’t fall between departments”.

“I regularly meet, as all my ministerial team or officials do, with representatives from the Department for Education. If there are concerns that relate to research universities then we are certainly right into that and across it and working on that agenda.”


Elsewhere in her evidence session, Donelan apologised for making her concerns about a Research England equality, diversity and inclusion panel public on X, formerly known as Twitter.

In October, Donelan tweeted a letter that suggested one academic on the panel was sympathetic to Hamas. After that individual, who was exonerated by an investigation, brought legal action, the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology paid £15,000 in costs and damages.

“I could have sent the letter in confidence to UK Research and Innovation in order for them to undertake the investigations privately,” Donelan told the committee. “And I do apologise for not having done so.”