Memorandum from Dr Tina Overton, University
The impact of HEFCE's research funding formulae,
as applied to Research Assessment Exercise ratings, on the financial
viability of university science departments;
The funding formula means that all but highest
rated science departments are in deficit to their institution.
The current funding formula for research will inevitably lead
to closures of 3 and 4 rated science departments as VCs balance
their books. This is seen as a far more important factor than
undergrad recruitment. Recent closures have been of departments
in which recruitment was bouyant.
The desirability of increasing the concentration
of research in a small number of university departments, and the
consequences of such a trend;
The consequences of such a trend is that science
teaching will also be concentrated in a small number of departments
as teaching only science departments are unsustainable financially.
Science provision will consequently disappear from a large proportion
of HE and large swathes of the country. Recruitment to science
will diminish as it becomes a marginalised discipline rather than
a main stream one.
The implications for university science teaching
of changes in the weightings given to science subjects in the
teaching funding formula;
The teaching funding formula does not support
science teaching and departments rely on cross subsidy from research
streams to maintain staff and equipment levels. If departments
rated lower than 5* in RAE are to survive an increase in the unit
of funding for science is essential.
The optimal balance between teaching and research
provision in universities, giving particular consideration to
the desirability and financial viability of teaching-only science
The balance should rightly vary across the sector
but research engagement within a science dept is desirable if
graduates are to useful to industry. Fossilisation could easily
take place in a rapidly developing discipline. Financial viability
of teaching only science is doubtful without a change in funding
The importance of maintaining a regional capacity
in university science teaching and research;
As undergraduates (particularly WP student)
stay at home to study regional provision is essential unless we
accept that science is of no strategic importance to the UK. Science
education must not come elite, available only in a small number
of institutions. The law of diminishing returns means that we
need to recruit large numbers of undergrads to provide sufficient
graduates for industry. Graduates from elite institutions are
less likely to go into industry and commerce but will stay in
academia here and abroad.
The extent to which the Government should intervene
to ensure continuing provision of subjects of strategic national
or regional importance; and the mechanisms it should use for this
A difficult one given the desirable autonomy
of institutions. But the decline in science provision is funding
driven so the funding formula could readily address this issue
and make science more secure and desirable for VCs.