Azara Blog: Cambridge University has a funding gap

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Date published: 2005/10/14

The BBC says:

Cambridge University's watchdog has warned that some of its top facilities could be at risk unless enough money is raised to plug a funding gap.

The university recently launched a campaign to raise £1bn by 2012.

Cambridge's board of scrutiny warns that some of the university's "premium services" might be at risk.

But the university said it was confident the target would be reached and denied suggestions that one-to-one tutorials would go.

The chairman of the scrutiny board Nick Holmes said: "It's common sense that if you want to have better than average facilities then you have to pay for them.

"If we can't raise more funds, in the end we will have to decide what we cannot afford."

The scrutiny board - set up 10 years ago - acts as a watchdog for the way the university is run and comments on this to Cambridge's governing body.

In its 10th report, the watchdog estimates that since 2000, Cambridge has used up £50m of reserves keeping afloat.

In three years' time, Oxford and Cambridge will lose the extra college fees they get from the government and will be funded along the same lines as other universities. This extra funding will have been wound down over 10 years.

The report said much had been done to reverse the deficit but there still remained a great deal to do.

"Although improved, the university's financial health still remains precarious, and further efforts are needed to ensure that the improvement continues," it said.

It went on: "If this extra income does not rise at least at the same rate as student and staff numbers then it will be difficult to maintain the premium services that the university and colleges provide (and which are essential to preserve the character of Cambridge)".

A spokesman for the university said Cambridge was committed to keeping the tutorial system.

He said: "The current supervisory system will remain integral to the world class quality of a Cambridge education. However, it comes at a price.

"We are working hard to rebalance our sources of funding and to achieve a sustainable surplus. This includes the launch of our £1bn anniversary appeal."

The silly terminology "premium services" basically means supervisions ("tutorials", which are normally two-to-one, not one-to-one as the BBC states; half of the BBC went to Oxbridge so they should have known better; mind you, they were probably the ones who spent all their time in the college bar). If supervisions are junked then it leaves less and less incentive to keep the college system. The Cambridge colleges are certainly anachronistic and the Fellows who run them are a bunch of amateurs who way over-rate the value and wisdom of their own opinions. (So much so that it is amazing that half the colleges have not gone bust.) But this does not mean the world would be a better place if they disappeared. Unfortunately we are in the age of New Labour where political correctness means we should not distinguish between Oxbridge and Slippery Rock.

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