Leeds' response to the CSR and Browne Report

We are in the midst of the biggest upheaval in higher education in this country in a generation.

Proposals in the Browne Review and substantial cuts outlined in the Comprehensive Spending Review will have major implications for all universities. We have no choice but to move with the times, and we must not be afraid of change.

My primary concerns have always been the quality of the education we provide our students, and the financial health of this institution. The quality of the education is paramount in the eyes of students and prospective students and will feature most prominently in their thinking when choosing where to study.

The government is cutting the funds it gives to higher education by 40 percent from £7.1bn to £4.2bn by 2014-15.  Leeds is in a strong and robust position, but there is no escaping the fact that a huge proportion of our core funding will be cut although the detail of that is not yet clear.  The proposals included in the Browne Review for students to contribute more to the cost of their education throw us a lifeline. If these are not adopted, there will be a massive funding gap, with implications for student numbers and for quality.

The protection of science and research funding is good news indeed.  We had lobbied hard but feared the worst; the pledge that the science and research budget will be maintained in cash terms until 2014/15 is very welcome.  The government's decision gives research-intensive universities like ours a much-needed degree of reassurance about the Government's long-term commitment to research across all disciplines and innovation.

Through all this, it's vital to protect access for students from lower income families. I am becoming concerned by the stance of some in higher education who keep insisting that the Browne Review will lead us to disaster in this respect. The more students from less well-off backgrounds are told they cannot afford HE, the more they will believe it. We need to be clear that, under Browne's proposals, graduate contributions will be linked to ability to pay.  We need to be clear that Browne proposes a greater level of grant support for student from poorer backgrounds.  And, above, all,we need to be clear that our commitment to higher education remaining free at the point of use, with no student paying fees upfront to attend university, is non-negotiable.

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