Cutting red tape will boost uni, says MP

SAVINGS David Willetts
SAVINGS David Willetts
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THE university of Portsmouth could be in for a windfall worth tens of thousands of pounds following plans to scrap EU protocol and taxes, says Havant MP David Willetts.

In a speech to the think tank Politeia in London today, the universities minister was set to discuss how savings can be made to leave institutions with more cash to spend on teaching and research.

He will explain how the transfer of higher education funding from central government to students means universities will no longer have to abide by costly EU protocol when it comes to tendering contracts for building works or other projects.

This would not only benefit the university, but also local businesses.

Mr Willetts is also set to announce the scrapping of VAT for shared services such as HR and admin work from now – rather than April 2012 as originally planned.

He told The News: ‘When the balance of funding shifts from conventional public grants to student fees it will be possible for universities to procure with much more flexibility.

‘As soon as you get less than half of your income from the state you are freed from obligations on the public sector set by the European Commission.

‘This will make it easier for the University of Portsmouth and other universities to get more local providers for anything from new buildings to office equipment, as the EU public procurement rules will no longer apply.

‘Across the country this could save universities anything between £10m and £20m.

‘If you divide that by 100 that gives an idea of what that could mean for Portsmouth.’

He added: ‘One of the particular strengths of our institutions is their autonomy and their ability to run their own affairs.

‘It’s one of the reasons why we have a strongly performing universities.

‘But I want to go even further.’

In his talk, Mr Willetts will encourage universities to link up with their neighbours and share duties like data collection that can be very time consuming.

He will also launch a study into how universities can encourage voluntary giving – that is, encouraging local philanthropists to give money to institutions.

And Mr Willetts will release a survey that validates international students’ experience of UK universities, with 80 per cent saying they feel a UK degree is a worthwhile financial investment three years after they graduate.