An investigation by Concrete has uncovered a disparity in funding in comparison to quality of research and rankings on university league tables, particularly between individual schools of study within faculties. The Union of UEA Students’ (UUEAS) Undergraduate Education Officer has responded by to the figures claiming that questions must be asked about the current model of higher education funding.
A Freedom of Information request made by Concrete revealed a large difference in funding between schools of study, especially when comparing the Faculties of Science, and Health Sciences, and the Faculty of Humanities.
Within the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, draft data for 2014-15 reveals that the School of Medicine receives £16.6m of the total £26.6m worth of funding, leaving the School of Health Sciences with just £9.4m. That represents 35.3% of faculty spending, despite the school having 58% of the faculty’s students.
Additionally, within the Faculty of Science, the school of Environment attracts £10.8m in funding – 31% of the total – despite its student population accounting for just 18% of those in the faculty.
The FOI request also revealed clear differences in the amount of funding received across different faculties. Within the Faculty of Humanities, total spending was £16.9m. If divided by the number of people studying in the faculty, this works out at £5,000 per student. A total investment of £33.9m in the Faculty of Science points to an investment of just over £10,000 per student.
Similarly, the faculty of Social Sciences receives investment of £5,200 per student but the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences sees investment of more than double that amount at £10,700 per student. While the money invested in each school is not spent purely on students, the figures indicate that, despite all students paying equal tuition fees, some areas of the university receive more funding than others.
Students had mixed opinions on the large difference in investments. Ciaran Wright, a second-year Politics student, said that students studying within the Faculties of Health and Science were right to attract greater investment as “ultimately, they’re degrees are going to have a greater impact on society, so greater investment is only right”. However, Karim Bukleb, a second year Economic student, disagrees. He argued: “if student are paying £9,000 to study, then it’s only right that we should attract the same level of investment in our studies”.
[su_spoiler title=”Dan Falvey looks at the surprises in the expenditure data” style=”simple” icon=”chevron-circle” anchor=”Comment”]Concrete’s FOI request asked UEA to provide “A breakdown of the spending by the university o each school of study for 2014-15”. The expenditure figures included spending on the day-to-day running of schools – things such as payroll. Consequently, the figures do not provide an account of exactly how students’ £9,000 tuition fees are spent. However, what it does reveal is that certain schools receive far more monney than others.
This is hardly surprising and is unlikely to be controversial. After all, some schools are larger than others. What is more likely to cause annoyance is the revelation that these discrepancies in expenditure are positively correlated to school size. Dividing spending by the number of students in each school shows that is some smaller schools – such as Medicine – receive a larger share of total expenditure than larger ones, for example, Health Sciences.
As Connor Rand comments, it is unlikely to be surprising to students that more money is spent on the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health Sciences than Humanities. However, it is probable that the majority of students were previously unaware of the discrepancies in funding within schools. How students – and the university – respond to these findings will be interesting.[/su_spoiler]
The Union of UEA Students Undergraduate Officer, Connor Rand, has said that while the revelation is not surprising, he believes that it does prompt a need for a wider debate on the subject of tuition fees. “The fact that some faculties receive higher funding than others is perhaps unsurprising considering the higher costs of some courses but it does raise interesting questions about where students tuition fees go, the sustainability of certain courses and the current model of higher education funding as a whole”, he said.
However, the large amount of spending on some science, technology, engineering and mathematics (stem) subjects over the humanities may be partialy responsible for the UK being so popular with international students. According to a British Council survey, International Stem Students: Focusing on Skills for the Future, international students studying a stem subject at undergraduate and postgraduate level rated the UK as providing the highest quality of teaching, setting students up with the best career paths and being at the forefront of innovative research in their area.
Commenting on the results, Gordon Slaven, the British Council’s Head of Higher Education said: “It’s great to see that the UK’s excellence in teaching and research in these areas is recognised by stem students around the world”.
UEA has chosen not to speak to Concrete on the issue of faculty funding at this time.