Rethink 'reckless postcode politics' of London Weighting cut, urges Warden

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The Warden of Goldsmiths, University of London is calling for the Government to rethink plans to cut London Weighting funding that will impact students and the local community.

Professor Frances Corner

Professor Frances Corner, Warden of Goldsmiths has joined with London Higher, which represents 40 universities and higher education colleges in London, to urge the Government to reconsider changes to the London Weighting element of the Teaching grant (renamed the Strategic Priorities Grant).

The call coincides with the release of a report by London Higher showing that the removal of London Weighting will see London institutions, which cannot avoid the higher costs of staffing and buildings in the capital, lose around £64m. The report concludes this will mean less money to provide a good quality student experience and investment taken away from many disadvantaged areas.

Professor Frances Corner said: “Cutting this funding is reckless postcode politics that will hurt some of England’s poorest areas, including our home borough of Lewisham.

“Universities bring huge benefits to deprived areas: our activities generate £91 million for Lewisham and support 2,500 jobs in the borough. These changes could cost us £2m in funding every year, only making it more difficult for us to help our local community recover from Covid-19.”

“This shortfall will also impact the funding for teaching creative courses, many of whose graduates go on to work in the creative industries that the Government’s own figures show are worth £111bn a year to the UK economy.

“We should be investing more in universities in England’s poorest boroughs and more in the graduates who make sectors such as Britain’s film and television industries a £20.8bn a year success story.”

Findings from the London Higher report, ‘The Impact of Removing London Weighting’, include that:

  • Some of London boroughs are among the most deprived areas of the country, with a third of London boroughs in the 30% most deprived areas in England.
  • London’s Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) face unavoidable higher costs of staffing and buildings, with more than the average 55% of total HEI expenditure going towards staff costs.
  • The London HEIs that will be hardest hit can least afford it, with the removal of the London Weighting resulting in a funding shortfall across London of around £64m (-13.7%).
  • HEIs in London which train key workers are set to be particularly affected by the proposals, with some health HE courses in the capital already loss-making – so, removing the London Weighting will make them even less viable.
  • Not all of London’s HEIs gain from international students, with five London HEIs accounting for around half of all international students in the capital.
  • Removing funding at short notice will have an impact on students, with less money per student to provide the good quality student experience expected from HEIs.
  • Levelling down London is not the way to equalise economic performance across the regions, with the proposal to take funds away from London’s HEIs and spread them across the country – some to areas and providers which are already relatively well off – not the way to achieve genuine levelling-up.

Read the full London Higher report online.

CEO of London Higher, Dr Diana Beech said: “This report makes clear the case for maintaining the current levels of funding for the capitals’ universities. With additional costs, from wages to unit price, the cost of delivery in London is considerably higher than elsewhere in the UK. This additional pressure, at short notice, will not only cause issues such as difficulties in recruitment, staff morale, higher staff turnover and worsening facilities on campus, but threaten widening participation goals if student support is affected.

“We urge Government to think again about re-allocating this funding at a time when we need a strong capital to lead our post-Covid recovery and uphold the UK’s status as a quality global study destination of choice.”

Professor Sir Paul Curran, President of City, University of London and Chair of the London Higher London Weighting group said: “There is no city in the world with a greater diversity of world-leading universities than London. The Secretary of State for Education has decided that in support of the national ‘levelling-up’ agenda, and despite the exceptionally high costs of operating in London, the capital’s great universities are to be ‘levelled-down’.

“From September, the teaching grant for London universities is to be cut by an average of 14 per cent and the resulting £64million redistributed around the country. This cut will add to the pressure on universities in the capital as they strive to continue to deliver world-class education for our young people and contribute to the national post-pandemic recovery.”

Professor Frances Corner has previously raised the issue with Sadiq Khan, The Mayor of London, and all the MPs for the Lewisham area, asking them to lobby the Government to maintain current London Weighting funding.

Overall Goldsmiths contributes £195m to the London economy and creates 3,600 jobs across London. According to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s 2015 Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), Lewisham ranked 48th out of 326 local authorities (1st being most deprived).