Budget 2010 – What does it mean for HE?

Chancellor Alistair Darling took to the dispatch box this afternoon to deliver the Government’s budget for the 2010 -11 financial year. Announcements of relevance to higher education, science and technology are the introduction of a new ‘University Enterprise Capital Fund’, to exploit the commercial potential of the UK’s research base, and a ‘Modernisation Fund’ to drive efficiencies in HE and fund the teaching costs of 20,000 extra places at universities from October this year.

The University Enterprise Capital Fund will consist of up to £37.5 million, including up to £25 million from Government, to provide early-stage funding for the commercialisation of promising university innovations.

The Modernisation Fund of £270 million will support 20,000 funded places from autumn 2010, ‘through a range of degrees students want in the subjects which business and employers most need’ (taken from the BIS website). £20 million of the £270 million fund will be allocated by HEFCE to ‘support universities and colleges in projects to raise efficiency and value for money through the development of shared services, collaborative procurement and other innovative ways of culling overhead and back office costs while sustaining the quality of front-line teaching and research’ (again, taken from BIS). Lord Mandelson, giving an interview after the budget speech, said that no cuts would be made to the higher education sector which would affect teaching quality or research excellence.

Many announcements in the budget related to support for small and medium sized businesses. Commenting on the budget through a BIS press release Lord Mandelson declared that “This is a budget for business, innovation and skills. It is a budget for jobs – both now and in the future. At its heart are SMEs, the real heroes of the recession and the backbone of the recovery”. Lord Mandelson also commented that “we must ensure we continue to invest in the sectors in which the UK already excels. Today’s focussed investment in applied science and engineering research facilities will help our manufacturing sector continue its hi-tech, low-carbon transformation, so that Britain continues to hold its own globally.” We assume that in this statement Lord Mandelson is referring to the University Enterprise Capital Fund but this isn’t completely clear. If other announcements are forthcoming from BIS to clarify this point we will post them here.