Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from Mr Tony Quigley, Head of Science and Engineering Base Group, Office of Science and Technology following the Evidence Session of 29 July

  At the meeting of the Committee on 29 July, I promised to write to you about the arrangements for the review of funding and accounting within the dual support system as far as they have been established. I explained, in the short period since the Comprehensive Spending Review announcement on 13 July, that we have been concentrating mainly on discussions with the Wellcome Trust over the Joint Infrastructure Fund.

  At the meeting, I reiterated the point made by Mr Battle during the Debate on 14 July, that the dual support system remains in place. The Review is set in that context: in particular, the aim is to introduce more transparent and accountable arrangements for ensuring that funds allocated to the Higher Education Funding Councils for research are used to full effect, properly complementing funding from the Research Councils. The intention would be to set in place any changes well before the next spending review. I stressed that this is not a review of the dual support system, but if anything the clarification produced by this review ought to strengthen the system.

  Sir John Cadogan has been charged with taking forward this Review with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), but all those affected—the Research Councils, the other Funding Councils and the Education Departments—will need to have a say in how any new arrangements are devised. The review, and in particular its application on a UK-wide basis, will therefore be discussed in the cross-departmental Science and Engineering Base Co-ordinating Committee (SEBCC), which is chaired by the Chief Scientific Adviser, and with membership including the Chief Executives of the Research Councils, the Funding Councils, the DGRC, and senior officials from the Education Departments. Mr Battle made clear in the 14 July Debate that the universities would also be consulted.

  In terms of process, Sir John has already had a meeting with Professor Brian Fender, the Chief Executive of the HEFCE, to consider the scope of the Review which will include the internal accounting arrangements for research activities within universities on which the Funding Councils are already making progress. Over the summer, officials from OST and HEFCE will be developing this further and will consult other Funding Councils. The overall scope of the Review will be brought to a special meeting of the SEBCC that is being arranged in the first half of October, and will include the Chairman of CVCP.

31 July 1998

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