Submission from the University College
1. The University and College Union (UCU)
represents more than 120,000 academics, lecturers, trainers, instructors,
researchers, managers, administrators, computer staff, librarians
and postgraduates in universities, colleges, prisons, adult education
and training organisations across the UK. We welcome the decision
of the Innovation, Universities and Skills select committee to
investigate the science budget allocations.
2. We have two main concerns about the science
budget allocations. Firstly, the shortfall in funding for the
Science and Technology Facilities Council requires it to curtail
support for some major research initiatives with threats of job
losses. Secondly, the allocations for university research capital
(distinct from the research capital allocated via the HE funding
councils) are being reduced by 28% over the three years of the
2007 CSR period.
THE STFC FUNDING
3. During the period of CSR 2007, funding
for the STFC will increase by 13.6%, from £573.5 million
in 2007-8 to £651.6 million in 2010-11. By contrast, funding
for the Medical Research Council will rise by 30.1%, and overall
funding for UK research councils by 18.0%.
4. Although STFC funding is to go up by
nearly £80 million, it will have an estimated shortfall of
£80 million. After paying for items including:
the increase in full economic costing
of research grants to 80%
investment in new facilities, including
the Diamond synchrotron and ISIS Target Station 2; and
subscription to international facilities,
including the Large Hadron Collider at CERN
the STFC will not have enough to fund all the
items it planned to support.
5. As a result, the STFC will cease investment
in various initiatives, including:
the International Linear Collider;
high-energy gamma ray astronomy experiments;
the twin 8-metre Gemini telescopes.
6. In addition, the STFC is considering
whether to continue further investment in the operation of the
UK infrared telescope in Hawaii, Merlin, the Liverpool Telescope,
Astro-Grid and investment in the US-led Dark Energy Survey.
7. It has been estimated that the shortfall
in STFC funding may lead to a 25% cut in its grants to university
physics departments. While STFC grant funding only forms a small
proportion of the annual income of some physics departments, for
others the STFC contribution is up to 75% or more of annual income.
8. Reductions in research grant funding
will lead to loss of jobs, particularly among postdoctoral research
students, and technical and support staff. Such staff will be
difficult, if not impossible, to replace should funding levels
recover in the future. Reductions will also undermine the creation
of new knowledge, as well as knowledge transfer into society and
the economy. The reductions will undermine the government's 10-year
plan for science in the UK.
9. There is at this early stage considerable
confusion and uncertainty about the impact of the STFC shortfall.
A UCU member has sent the following comment on the potential impact
in their department of the STFC cuts:
I am afraid the situation is unclear at the
moment. We have as yet received no official information as to
what will happen with our Rolling Grant funding, for example,
but the effects . . . are likely to be very serious if the cuts
are implemented as proposed in the STFC Delivery Plan. We receive
about 85% of our research funding from the STFC as we have large
Nuclear and Particle Physics groups. One of the projects we are
involved in . . . is associated with the International Linear
Collider and has been cut in the STFC Delivery Plan. My first
guess would be that . . . this will result in the loss of one
Research Associate at my institute and probably in job losses
at a further five institutes in the UK . . . (These numbers have
to be treated as very approximate as, due to the lack of information
from STFC, it is very unclear how they propose to implement the
cutsover what time scale etc. etc.) Cuts to Rolling Grants
are also proposed at the 25% level. As you can see from this number
and the 85% figure mentioned above, there is likely to be a significant
number of further job losses . . . as a result of the cuts. At
the moment, given the lack of information, I don't think I can
give you much idea about possible numbers.
10. As noted above, the allocations for
university science research capital (distinct from the research
capital allocated via the HE funding councils) are being reduced
by 28% over the 3 years of the 2007 CSR period, from £300
million in 2007-8 to £215 million in 2010-11.
11. Although the 2007 CSR period sees capital
funding for university science research moving from the limited
period funding under the Science Research Investment Fund to funding
on a permanent basis under the New Capital Investment Fund, further
investigation is required to see what impact this reduction is
likely to have.
12. While there has been considerable improvement
in funding for capital infrastructure in UK higher education since
2000, and further investment is planned to continue for the period
of CSR2007 under the iterative amounts indicated via HEFCE in
the DIUS press release of 11 December 2007, we are concerned to
see this reduction in the capital funding provided via the science
13. UCU is gathering information, from members
and from physics departments in UK HEIs, about the specific impact
of the underfunding of physics and astronomy through the shortfall
in the STFC budget.
14. UCU is campaigning for the government
to provide additional funding to make up the projected shortfall
in STFC income. This includes making representations to government
ministers about STFC funding.
15. UCU is also following up with the DIUS
the future funding of university capital for science research
allocated via the Science Budget, which is to fall by more than
one quarter over the period of the 2007 CSR.
16. UCU has been actively campaigning for
the protection of both science research and teaching at HEIs.
The union has actively resisted department closures, although
not always successfullythe closure of the physics department
at Reading being the most recent case. Recent UCU research on
STEM subjects shows a decline in the period 1998-2007 of 31% in
the number of single honours chemistry courses offered in the
UK, of 14% in single honours physics and of nearly 10% in single
honours maths courses. In some regions of the UK, in 2007 there
is only one provider of core science and maths subjectsa
situation which could undermine widening participation aims.
17. We believe that the 25% cut in STFC
grant funding will threaten large numbers of research jobs and
ultimately the viability of physics departments around the country.
18. UCU has long been concerned about the
impact on research quality due to the lack of continuity of employment
for many research staff in the UK. We have agreement from the
DIUS that HEFCE should commission research on the impact of lack
of job security as a deterrent to the brightest research students
continuing in the HE sector.
19. To date more than 12,000 people have
signed the petition on the 10 Downing St website to "reverse
the decision to cut vital UK contributions to Particle Physics
20. At 15.01.08 the petition had 12,597
21. "Due to cost overruns the UK's
funding agency for particle physics and astronomy, STFC, is recouping
£80 million with deep cuts to UK physics operations in these
areas. These include ending the UK's involvement in the International
Linear Colliderthe next generation of particle physics
experiment. This risks relegating the UK to second tier involvement
in future research and critically damaging the country's standing
within the community. Furthermore UK Astronomy will be seriously
hit with up to a 25% cut in grants. This is incompatible with
the government's stated aim of making Britain a world leader in
science. A review of this decision has recently been announced
and we urge the Prime Minister to press for another solution to
this problem before UK physics is set back by decades."
33 Degrees of decline? Core science funding and mathematics
degree courses in the UK 1998-2007: http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/pdf/7/h/degreesofdecline_nov06_1.pdf Back