Denham deluded over funding focus on elite 2

March 5, 2009

The Universities Secretary has apparently identified two models for quality-related (QR) finance - concentrating research funding on what appear to be the existing research-intensive institutions or diluting it among the pockets of excellence identified by the RAE. He favours the first ("Denham: elite to get lion's share of future research funding", 26 February).

However, later in your coverage he is quoted as saying: "If we want to persuade our society to invest in higher education ... together we will need to make a compelling argument that extra investment was well spent."

One might then ask why the emergence of the pockets of excellence and world-class research in the latest RAE does not appear to count as evidence for the effective use of funds.

Does this not describe an obvious third model for QR funding, which would be to proportionally increase the Government's QR budget to grow in parallel with the expansion of "world-leading" research?

Claims that academia still needs to prove its benefits to society (or employers, who seem to be confused with society) fail to take into account the fact that academia is itself a part of society, and not an insignificant one. One might also ask the question of who gets to judge "what society really needs", as matters of such importance are clearly best left to intellectuals and academics.

Eike Anderson, Coventry University.

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