Success, past and present

April 9, 2015

I read with interest the letter from Paul Whiteley on the Higher Education Funding Council for England research funding allocations, and offer the following observations (“Funding allocations: a whole lot of nothing”, Letters, 2 April). Whiteley correlates changes in research funding with absolute levels of performance; but changes in research funding should be driven (as indeed they are) by changes in levels of performance. Second, he suggests that “institutions that historically do very well should not face large cuts just because their performance has slipped a bit”. It is difficult to see how perpetual reward for historic rather than current performance will encourage universities to invest for success. Third, he misses Luke Georghiou’s point elsewhere in the issue (“ ‘Grotesque’ flow of QR cash to minnows could sink REF, scholar warns”, News, 2 April) that quality-related funding is driven by volume as well as quality. Universities’ research funding allocations should reflect current staff numbers, not those from 10 years ago.

Sir Roderick Floud adopts an alternative position in a separate letter, arguing that the research excellence framework does not appear to change anything. He may wish to ponder on the comments from universities that have lost money, which indicate that the REF can change things quite a bit. As a university that has had a significant return on a research investment, I for one appreciate that the REF rewards success – and that will change things for us.

Fourth, it is worth a reminder that many of the institutions whose performance has been rewarded are not “smaller” (as described in “ ‘Grotesque’ flow of QR cash to minnows could sink REF, scholar warns”) in either turnover or student numbers.

George Marston
Pro vice-chancellor for research and innovation
Northumbria University

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Reader's comments (1)

Well said! I would add: 1. If anything could endanger the long-term quality of UK research then the adoption of the principle that “institutions that historically do very well should not face large cuts just because their performance has slipped a bit.” This is a recipe for decline, as we know from other areas (e.g. the business world), because it leads to complacency. 2. £1M more does not really make a bid difference in the overall performance of a large research institution (let alone in one that has "slipped a bit"), but could have a big positive impact in a rapidly improving "small" (read post-92) institution.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham