Report: Lincoln universities ‘at risk’

A report from the University College Union (UCU) claims that the University of Lincoln and the Bishop Grosseteste University College could be facing closure as a result of higher education funding changes proposed by the government.

The report used four key indicators to score each university in terms of how much they will be affected by the government’s proposals for higher education.

The indicators looked at universities’ reliance on public funding, the proportion of public funding for ‘non-priority’ subjects, the number of students from poor backgrounds, and an institution’s reliance on non-EU students’ fees.

The UCU report said Bishop Grosseteste University College is at “very high level of potential impact” along with three other UK universities, and the University of Lincoln is at “high level of potential impact” along with 22 other institutions.

Overall 38% English higher education institutions have been labelled “at risk” as a result of higher education funding changes proposed by the government.

The report draws on research that demonstrates the impact universities have on their local economy by creating jobs and revenue far beyond the confines of campus.

UCU’s Sally Hunt said: “The worst-case scenario is closure, something university leaders and the business secretary have both acknowledged is a possibility.

“Universities are a major player in their local economies, creating jobs on and off campus, and generating revenue through any number of related small businesses.”

The University of Lincoln is estimated to bring over £200million to the local economy and has created 3,000 new jobs, according to a 2008 government report.

The Bishop Grosseteste University College said in a statement the UCU report which characterises it as “at very high risk” is “deeply flawed”.

Principal Muriel Robinson said her institution has “oversubscribed courses, high levels of student satisfaction and an excellent record of students securing jobs.

“It is true that times are going to be challenging for the whole HE sector, but we do not consider that we are at particular risk as a result of the government’s proposals.

“We have very strong reserves, with one of the highest net liquidity ratios in the sector, so are well placed to weather any fluctuation in demand in 2012.

“We have always been judged financially sound by HEFCE, including in the most recent Assurance Review just a year ago,” the statement explained.

“The University of Lincoln is a strong institution and has made rapid progress , establishing itself as one of the top institutions for student satisfaction in the country,” a University of Lincoln spokesperson said.

“The UCU report highlights the uncertainties of future funding for higher education in the UK, but does not take into account the effects of Thursday’s proposed legislation on graduate contribution.

“The University of Lincoln, like other universities, has been preparing for the proposed changes to HE and has clear plans to deal with the various scenarios for future university funding.”

MPs are expected to vote on tuition fees increases and graduate contributions legislation after 5pm on Thursday, December 9.

Photo: Tom Farmery | Related Report: Lincolnshire Echo