Submission from Universities UK
Prior to the Innovation, Universities and Skills
Committee's session on the science budget allocations on 21st
January I am writing to inform you of Universities UK's ongoing
concern over the funding of the Science and Technology Facilities
UUK have welcomed the headline investment for
science announced in the recent Comprehensive Spending Review
(CSR). Indeed, we are encouraged by the government's strong commitment
to science and innovation and the strategic approach taken within
the 10-year science and innovation framework. Much of the additional
funding provided in this and previous spending reviews has been
provided to meet more of the full economic costs of projects undertaken
in universities. UUK are strong supporters of this agenda and
believe that this commitment will help secure a strong and sustainable
research base in universities.
The headline investment for STFC in the 2007
CSR was 14%. UUK understand, however, that in reality this will
represent a significant reduction in funding over this spending
period due to a number of factors. Notably for universities, as
part of the STFC delivery plan this will lead to a 25% reduction
in research grant funding.
We do, of course, appreciate that the circumstances
that have led to this situation are complex, and compounded by
the fact that that the STFC was only created in April this year.
However, the impact of the proposed cuts will be significant,
particularly in university physics departments. We have taken
informal soundings of UUK members on the potential impact of scaling
back of STFC funding over the current CSR period. We will be undertaking
further analysis of the information provided, and would be happy
to share this with the committee, but the headline messages on
the impact of a 25% cut in grant funding are:
There would be a significant loss
of staff at all levels, impacting on the health of physics departments
and research environment.
Cuts would place at risk the successful
outcome of work where the UK already has an established lead.
UK institutions would therefore lose leadership in world-leading
projects and lose international collaborative partners.
Recruitment and retention of high-calibre
researchers of international standing will be much harder.
Collaboration at regional and national
levels (for example, research pooling in Scotland) would be damaged.
Collaboration provides a solution to many of the concerns over
future capacity in physics. Collaborative initiatives designed
to sustain physics provision following a number of high profile
closures, supported by the funding councils and others, have the
potential to be undermined by the STFC cuts.
Institutional investment in staff
and equipment would not be fully exploited and facilities would
Any negative publicity about the
viability of Physics departments would also have knock on effect
on student recruitment into degree programmes.
Any reduction could also have potentially
negative effects on the regional economy, for example impacting
on the supply chain for instrumentation.
There will also be a considerable
impact in parts of Chemistry, Biology, and Engineering.
It is clear that this situation was not intended,
but given its seriousness it is crucial that it can be resolved
in a way that does not damage the viability of physics departments
in UK universities, many of which are already in a fragile financial
We welcome the government's announcement of
a review of physics, to be chaired by Professor Bill Wakeham.
UUK would be supportive of suspending the STFC delivery plan until
Professor Wakeham has reported. In the interim it will be important
that there is a flexibility of approach and continued and open
dialogue between STFC and DIUS to avoid any irreversible damage
before recommendations arising from the Wakeham review can be
taken forward. At the very least, funding should be found to provide
a sensible period for adjustment before any abrupt decisions have
to be taken.