Bristol sciences nearly four times better funded than arts, new figures reveal

The Faculties of Health and Biomedical Sciences receive around four times more funding per student than the Faculties of Arts and of Social Sciences & Law, according to new figures obtained by Epigram.

The news comes in the midst of a national debate over tuition fees, following the government’s launch of an independent tuition review, in which the idea of variable fees was introduced.

Over the last two academic years, the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences was found to have received the highest amount of funding per student, at an average of £23,896.

The Faculty of Health Sciences received the second highest amount, at £23,186 per student.

By contrast, an average of £5,063 was spent per student in the Faculty of Arts, and £6,036 per student in the Faculty of Social Sciences & Law.

The Faculty of Engineering received an average of £13,964 per student, while the Faculty of Science received £14,794.

These figures were affected by government subsidy, which is weighted heavily in favour of science subjects.

The Faculty of Health Sciences, for example, received an average of £26.4m per year from the government over the last two years, while the Faculty of Arts received only £3.9m.

Even excluding these subsidies, however, the University was found to have spent an average of £15,068 per Health Sciences student each year, compared with only £4,219 per Arts student.

Professor Guy Orpen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, said: ‘There are many factors which contribute to the cost of educating an individual student, and it’s natural for some subjects to cost more to teach than others.

‘For example, teaching Science requires more specialist equipment and laboratories than teaching History.

‘We receive additional funding from HEFCE for each UK student, weighted depending on the resource needs of the subject.

'There are many factors which contribute to the cost of educating an individual student'

‘That doesn’t mean that the quality and standard of teaching is any different. We aim to cater for the needs of all students and clearly cannot put an individual price on each student’s degree.’

During the government’s tuition review launch in February of this year, Education Secretary Damian Hinds hinted at the introduction of a system in which university fees would differ depending on the course.

He said: ‘with a system where almost all institutions are charging the same price for courses – when some clearly cost more than others and some have higher returns to the student than others – it is right that we ask questions about choice and value for money.’

Alice See, Law student at the University of Bristol (Faculty of Social Sciences and Law), told Epigram that she was ‘shocked by the difference in funding’, and felt that ‘it would make sense that if a course costs less to run then they should charge less.’

However, she said: ‘if fees were varied some subjects might become less accessible to certain people. You don’t want people to be put off of sciences, for example, because of a lack of funds.’

Luke Magar, Geography student at the University of Bristol (Faculty of Science), agreed with Hinds that universities ‘could do more to address the issue’, and suggested changes such as the introduction of free books for Arts students.

However, he felt that the difference in expenditure was understandable. He said: ‘I think there are bound to be notable differences in funding between subjects like English and Medicine, because they have very different teaching requirements.’

Matt Dominey, Politics student (Faculty of Social Sciences and Law), strongly disagreed with the concept of variable fees.

He told Epigram: ‘While I understand the frustration of some students at the discrepancies in university expenditure on different courses, I do not think that there is a fair argument for the introduction of variable fees.

‘In doing this,’ he said, ‘we would only reinforce the already pervasive barriers that prevent those at the bottom of society from reaching the top.’

Featured image credit: Flickr / University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Science


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