By Mairghread McLundie
At the Consultation meetings, it was stressed that part of the ‘cost’ of DACE was the portion of ‘funded places’ associated with Adult and Continuing Education, which the university might wish to transfer to other areas There was confusion over what this actually meant; and how it was quantified. I hope that these notes provide some explanation of ‘funded places’, and the impact of their removal from DACE.
What follows is my understanding of ‘funded places’ as a mechanism for funding teaching at Scottish universities. This is a simplified explanation of a process which is complicated and not always clear.
Universities in Scotland receive a teaching grant (£G) from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC); this grant is for teaching as opposed to research, which is funded through other mechanisms. (Historical note: before 1992 funding was allocated by the Universities Funding Council (UFC). In 1992 the UFC was replaced, in Scotland by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC). In 2005 SHEFC merged with the Scottish Further Education Funding Council (SFEFC) to form the SFC.)
The amount of teaching grant (£G) awarded to each university is calculated by multiplying a number of funded places (P) by a value per place (£V).
The number of places (P) at a university that the SFC will fund is agreed between the SFC and the University, and is based on a number of factors including historical ones. (The terms ‘funded places’ and ‘FTEs’ (Full Time Equivalents) are often used interchangeably, but I understand that, strictly speaking, they are not exactly equivalent.)
The value per place (£V) depends on the type of course. For example, medical places attract more funding than arts places. However, although the reality is slightly more complicated because V varies across courses, basically the equation is:
£G = P x £V.
It should be noted that this calculation is a funding mechanism; it does not necessarily correlate with the actual cost to the University of teaching the students. 2010/2011 is the first year that the TRAC (Transparent Approach to Costing) methodology, used by HEI’s to cost activities including research, has been applied to teaching. This should hopefully make the actual cost of teaching clearer.
The money is awarded to the University as the Teaching Grant; with limited restrictions it is up to the University how they use this grant.
As the total amount of funding awarded is based on the number of places, the University is penalised if they enroll more than 10% over their allocated places. The University can, however, increase their undergraduate student numbers by recruiting overseas students, as they are not included within this limit.
Implications for DACE
Allocation of funds to the university for adult and continuing education can be traced back to the UFC (Universities Funding Council UK) allocation in 1992, when a block grant for Continuing Personal Education (CPE) made at that time was converted into 285 credit-bearing FTEs within the main teaching grant in 96/97. An additional 96 FTEs were generated between 2001 and 2003 as part of the Funding Council’s part time initiative; these also became part of the teaching grant. There are therefore 381 FTEs based on activity in the area of adult and continuing education associated with the Open Programme (languages, CertHE and ACE short courses) in the SFC Teaching Grant to the university. This funding helps to pay for salaries and infrastructure to support 5000 fee-paying part-time students, and allows the programme for adult and continuing education to make a contribution to the University (expected of all areas).
Because of the mechanisms involved this funding (which up to now has been allocated for Adult and Continuing Education) is important to the University in two ways: the income associated with the places, and the places themselves. Both aspects are likely to be considered part of the ‘cost’ of DACE.
It is presumably the funding income from these 381 FTE places that the Senior Management Group is referring to in the Extract from its Court Paper on the Consultation web site (my emphasis):
“ACE courses generate some income but they are also underpinned by SFC income that could be deployed elsewhere in the University where there are seen to be opportunities to grow research excellence and expand international recruitment”
As well as the income aspect, taking these funded places away from ACE and allocating them elsewhere appears to be one way in which the University could increase the number of undergraduate places without exceeding their SFC limit.
Bottom line, the University is proposing to take funding away from 5,000 fee-paying part-time Adult and Continuing Education students and use it for purposes other than for which it has been historically allocated.