Social work degree places could be cut as a result of changes in student funding, an academic has warned.
Sue White, chair of the Association of Professors of Social Work, said places could be threatened by a possible increase in tuition fees combined with £500m funding cuts for universities already in place for 2010-11.
A government-commissioned review of higher education funding, chaired by Lord Browne, is expected to call for an increase in tuition fees possibly to as much as £7,000 when it is published next week.
At present, fees for social work students in England, which are usually between £3,000 and £3,500, are paid for by the Department of Health through social work bursaries. The Department is reviewing the funding for bursaries and practice placements, which currently cost £100m per year, following a recommendation from the Social Work Task Force.
White, head of social work at Birmingham University, said it was not yet clear how funding for social work courses would be affected by the reviews.
But she predicted “the government is not going to provide a lot more money for social work training in such tumultuous times”.
“I would like to see a strong steer from ministers in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills about the need for universities to undertake civic engagement activities,” she added. “Otherwise the focus on stem subjects may make social work vulnerable, particularly in research intensive universities which may well increase fees substantially.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said it was awaiting Lord Browne’s final report.
“We will judge its proposals against the need to take into account the impact on student debt, ensure a properly funded university sector, improve the quality of teaching, advance scholarship, increase social mobility and attract a higher proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Earlier this year the Higher Education Funding Council for England announced that £7.4bn would be allocated to HEIs in 2010-11, 7% less than the total for 2009-10.
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