Science research funding in universities Contents

Summary of conclusions and recommendations

Current issues

1.QR funding is vital in allowing universities to cover the full economic cost of research, and in helping universities to fund research infrastructure which is often not covered by other sources of funding. QR funding must rise by at least the rate of inflation and the deficit that has been created since 2010 should be addressed. The Government should commit to doing this as part of the spending review. (Paragraph 24)

The Augar Review

2.Reducing the tuition fee cap in England to £7,500 without compensating universities for this loss in full by increasing the teaching grant will result in significant financial consequences for universities. The immediate casualties of such a reduction in income will likely be widening-participation programmes, student experience, infrastructure maintenance and repair, and the hands-on elements of courses. (Paragraph 48)

3.The Augar Review recommends that the social and economic value of different subjects be determined by the Office for Students, taking account of the subject’s relative importance with respect to alignment with the Government’s Industrial Strategy and a range of other factors such as the financial viability of the university and its contribution to the local economy. This recommended process is far from straightforward and is certain to be controversial. We are concerned that it will be fraught with difficulties and that it will remove autonomy from universities. (Paragraph 64)

4.By concentrating on student education and making only a passing reference to research and development, the terms of reference of the Augar Review did not take a holistic approach to the funding of universities. The panel compounded this by making no attempt to assess the potential impact of its recommended reductions in student fees on the funding of research, declaring that it was outside the scope of the review. The result is a distorted assessment of the sector’s financial health as a whole. (Paragraph 68)

5.In looking at university funding without considering research and cross-subsidies, the Augar Review has made recommendations which, if implemented, could prove harmful to the already challenging ecosystem of university funding. (Paragraph 69)

6.If the Government is to follow any of the recommendations of the review relating to tuition fees, it must implement them as a full financial package, including increasing the teaching grant to cover the loss of tuition fees, to ensure that universities are no worse off than they are now. We are, however, concerned by the proposal that the Office for Students should determine the value of teaching grant awarded to individual institutions. This gives the Office for Students too much power to determine the fate of universities and erodes their autonomy. Whoever has the responsibility for determining the value of teaching grant awards must do so using clear metrics to assess the impact on the research base. Given the complex nature of the cross-subsidies universities employ in managing their finances, seemingly small disruptions to inputs could have significant unintended consequences for research. (Paragraph 70)


7.We urge the Government to associate the UK with Horizon Europe as soon as possible, to ensure certainty and stability for researchers in universities and industry. (Paragraph 85)

8.The Government should ensure that once the UK has left the EU the level of funding the UK currently receives from the EU for research is matched in full. As the UK is a net beneficiary of EU research funding this amount will be greater than the amount the UK currently contributes to the EU research pot. (Paragraph 95)

9.Public funding for research in universities after Brexit should seek to replace not just the amount of funding but the areas it supports, like discovery research and scientific infrastructure and facilities. It is important to the scientific community that the basis for awarding funding is research excellence. (Paragraph 96)

10.Retaining the mobility of researchers after Brexit is vital to ensuring the UK can continue to attract the best researchers and meet its research and development goals. The Government must ensure post-Brexit immigration laws do not hinder the ability of UK universities to recruit and retain the scientific staff they require, including technicians earning below the recommended salary threshold. In doing so the Government must also give consideration to amending immigration laws relating to families and dependants of those scientific staff. (Paragraph 109)

11.We urge the Government to communicate to the EU and the rest of the world that the UK is committed to continuing research collaborations after it has left the EU, and we look forward to seeing the recommendations put forward by Professor Sir Adrian Smith in his review of international research collaboration. (Paragraph 113)

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