I have long had doubts that third-stream funding could be a proper use of monies that, according to the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 s.65, should be used only to support teaching and research. Several recent Higher Education Funding Council for England initiatives with their own dedicated funding streams have heightened my concern that funding was being diverted from these constitutive activities of universities (for example, those relating to "knowledge transfer", such as the Higher Education Innovation Fund and the funding for Centres for Knowledge Exchange).
Moreover, universities are educational charities. The third-stream activities Hefce is eagerly funding would appear to be capable of compromising their charitable status. And the funding council has been entrusted with a new responsibility in this connection, so one would expect it to be thinking this through rather carefully.
I am pleased to see that HM Revenue and Customs is concerned about present trends and I hope Times Higher Education will encourage Hefce to explain how its allocation of third-stream funding is in compliance with its statutory duties under both these heads.
University of Cambridge