Supplementary evidence from the Science
and Technology Facilities Council following the oral evidence
session on 21 January 2008
STFC REVISED DELIVERY
Research grants make up the bulk of the funding
that STFC gives to universities and with such a large amount it
is inevitable that, within a programme of cutbacks, the grants
budget would come under pressure. It is difficult to quantify,
in exact terms, the current size of the grants "budget"
as a result of ongoing work associated with the merger and other
factors but it is unlikely to differ significantly from the expenditure
on grants by PPARC in 2006-07, which was £139.2 million (CCLRC
spend was less than 1/10th of this figure).
Awards are made for a period of 1-5 years, usually
with a review point approximately 3 years into the award to assess
the health of the work programme.
Awards are planned for on three year cycles,
but the timetable is different for Astronomy and Particle Physics.
Astronomy awards for exploitation (responsive
mode) are decided upon annually within a three year cycle.
Over the last three years, the numbers of Post Doctoral
Research Assistants (PDRAs) on grants has been:
2007/2008: 323 (the original plan figure was
356, but this was pegged back once the CSR allocation was known)
(NB: These figures equate to a 3 year cumulative
total number of awards, approximately 100, or one third, of which
are made within each given year.)
The 25% reduction in funding is cutting into
the originally projected aspirational programme of growth, year
on year. The revised Delivery Plan results in a reduction in the
cumulative number of new awards being made by the end of 2010-11
Whilst this is a significant adjustment, in
comparison with 2005 it is a reduction of 31 posts, equating to
roughly 11%. The reason for making this point is that the cutback
should not, in STFC's opinion, be seen as a threat to the critical
mass of researchers within Departments or their overall viability.
In contrast to the rolling year on year Astronomy
awards cycle, Particle Physics awards are made every three years.
The next awards decision date will take effect in the year 2009-10,
or one year into the revised STFC Delivery Plan. The 25% reduction
in funding required by the Delivery Plan directly impacts on this
decision date. Awards for the next two years are, in effect, protected
because of the decision making cycle, with the exception of support
provided within these grants for projects (such as the International
Linear Collider) in which there will be a reduction as indicated
in the Delivery Plan. In these instances, it is expected that
current grants will be withdrawn and the relevant support removed.
It is envisaged that this delay should allow
University Departments to plan effectively for the reduction in
funding. It should also be noted that the Physics Review will
have been completed in advance of this date and its recommendations
should take into account this timetable.
Our accruals based allocation (in common with
all government funding) comes in three flavours: near-cash, non-cash
and capital. Before explaining what these are I should point out
that, in the main, capital allocation can only be used on capital
spend and non-cash can only be spent on non-cash items. Near-cash
on the other hand can be spent on near-cash, non-cash or capital.
In addition, and separately, the council is provided with cash
to pay its accruals based budgetary commitments.
Near-cash is available to spend on running costs,
salaries, certain subscriptions etc. It is similar to what we
used to call resource or recurrent expenditure. This is the biggest
element of our allocation.
Capital is the money we spend on investment
in items that will become assets. Buildings, facilities and large
pieces of equipment will class as capital. They have a value on
our fixed asset register. In addition we are able to use some
of our capital spend as something called capital grants to the
private sector (CGPS) and we do this for a portion of our CERN
subscription and on some University Grants.
Non-cash is an allocation we get to enable us
to make provision in our accounts to cover future obligations
and things like depreciation. This makes our accounts look more
like normal business accounts. If we were a real business this
would be money we would set aside for future replacement of assets
and would be very real. The reason it is called non-cash is that
no money actually moves around. We don't actually get the money,
we just get an allocation and we use it to make provision in our
accounts. One little twist in this story is that if we don't have
enough non-cash to make provisions in our accounts then we need
to use some of our near-cash instead and that is very real.
In addition the Government have asked the MIER
to undertake a further piece of work on their behalf that will
be undertaken alongside the existing Review programme of work
on the potential contribution of the Daresbury campus to science
and innovation in the UK economy as a whole, the North West science
base and the Manchester City Region.
This will include an assessment of:
the role of partnerships with universities,
public sector bodies and the private sector;
the potential for increased commercial
the contribution of training and
the development of an appropriate skills base; and
the complementarities with Harwell
and other major science and innovation campuses.