April 11, 2006

With love from the SoS: Letters to HEFCE

Writing about web page http://www.hefce.ac.uk/finance/fundinghe/grant/

(From annual conference of AUA taking place in Belfast)

Have just seen David Watson delivering a keynote speech to AUA delegates – he was talking, pretty authoritatively, about new Labour HE policy and reminded me, when he invited someone (anyone daft enough) to attempt a detailed deconstruction of the letters from various Secretaries of State to HEFCE/UFC, of some dull investigation I had previously undertaken. He suggested they started in 1988 (ERA – post-UGC) although I only went back to '96 but did discover the following startling (well kind of) information.

Important to bear in mind that in the old days (around 1917 to 1979 roughly), the 'grant letter' was I believe just a single sentence or a wee bit more telling the UGC how much money there was for the universities.

The 2003 funding letter though runs to 73 paragraphs over 12 pages and places an extremely prescriptive set of requirements on the HEFCE
The length of funding letters has seen two peaks: January 2003 73 paragraphs and December 1998 66 paragraphs. The November 1999, November 2000 and December 2001 letters ranged from 40 to 46 paragraphs but the January 2004 letter has moved towards the more traditional brevity of only 20 paragraphs of instruction to HEFCE.

The most recent one from Ruth Kelly is remarkable for several reasons (do have a look – well worth it):


First is – it's a really wonky scan. Secondly, the Secretary of State herself appears to have corrected the date by hand at the last minute so it was 2006 instead of 2005. Thirdly, it is a record in terms of length for the past 10 years at only 15 paragraphs. Fourthly (and obviously much more significantly), in terms of content it has several really surprising directives, the most bizarre of which is an entirely new encouragement to work on 'employer-led provision', whatever that is.

Oh, and the other thing is it was really quite late – the traditional November/December publication gave way to mid January in 2003 and 2004 but only just stopped short of February this year. Not very impressive – at least it was brief though.

See: link

for all of the gory detail

So if anyone really wants to go further with this I would be delighted to read the results!

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