Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 4

Submission from the British Academy


  The CSR settlement is a strong result for the research community, with an outcome in line with the ten-year policy framework for science and innovations, and at a level distinctly higher than the average CSR settlement for Government departments.

  The British Academy is the national academy for the humanities and social sciences. Like the two other national academies, the British Academy receives a Grant-in-Aid through the science budget, which is used to support research in a way that complements the Research Councils.

  This was the first time that the British Academy had been through a spending review process under the aegis of a science ministry (the Academy had previously been funded through Dfes). The process followed by OSI/DTI and thereafter DIUS was open and consultative: officials made clear at all stages that the spending review would be challenging, that it was necessary to prepare for a range of possible outcomes, including flat-cash, and that evidence of a thorough examination of priorities would be necessary.

  The British Academy submitted a delivery plan that was the result of extensive reflection and reprioritisation, in the light of our own priorities and also the need to adjust to the "full economic costing" regime. It was targeted on building research capacity in the humanities and social sciences, with a clear priority of raising the number of postdoctoral fellowships awarded—this is our flagship scheme. We also outlined plans to sustain our other schemes, to extend our international leadership—including a focus on areas of strategic interest to the UK, like China, the middle east, Africa and Latin America—and to develop our work in communications and outreach. We were aware of the likely impact of FEC commitments on volume of research able to be supported. We had to address some difficult issues, recognising that we could not continue to do everything, and to restructure some of our programmes.

  The settlement for the British Academy will allow us to deliver our identified priorities, and also to take part, alongside the other national academies and RCUK, in a new international visiting fellowship scheme. We will be able to expand our postdoctoral fellowship scheme to 45 awards a year (with a success rate still well below 10%, it should be noted) and to sustain our other activities. We will be able to meet our FEC obligations, although there is pressure on some of our ambitions in the international area and there will be tighter success rates in some schemes. Like other bodies in receipt of public funds we are required to make savings in operating costs, which is particularly challenging for a small organisation like the Academy. We would of course always welcome more funds, but overall we see it as a good settlement for our share of support for the humanities and social sciences.

  We are aware that other research funding bodies with an interest in the humanities and social sciences have had to deal with challenges similar to those faced by the British Academy, thinking through their priorities and seeking to balance FEC and research volume. The Research Councils in our disciplines received their share of the settlement. We have recently seen announcements by AHRC of changes in the number of studentship places offered and success rates on grants. We would be concerned about a sustained reduction in the number of PhD studentships in the humanities, since this is the principal entree to those disciplines (we are particularly interested in levels of response-mode provision). We understand however that numbers can be expected to stabilise at close to traditional levels.

February 2008

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2008
Prepared 30 April 2008