The extra Pounds 200m for higher education announced in the Budget seems likely to stave off the threat of tuition fees for students. It may also encourage university employers to increase their 1.5 per cent pay offer to staff, which led to a one-day strike last week.
Universities are to receive Pounds 100m more in each of the next two years than they had been allocated in last year's plans. Total spending in 1997-98 will now be Pounds 3,448m. But that still means a cut of 0.9 per cent in real terms between this year and next, and of a further 6 per cent by 2000.
Professor Gareth Roberts, chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, said the two-year respite would help tide universities over until Sir Ron Dearing reported next summer.
Vice-chancellors meeting for a two-day session on the Budget at the end of next week will discuss the possible imposition of top-up fees for students. But insiders suggested that the threat had now receded.
University employers meet next week to discuss the next stage in their pay negotiations. The offer of 1.5 per cent has so far provoked a one-day stoppage by lecturers and a boycott of various administrative tasks, with disruption of examinations and admissions in the wings.