The Government's metrics system threatens to turn funding policy on its head, with top-rated departments facing cuts and bottom-rated departments reaping rewards, big research institutions said this week.
An analysis by one major research-intensive university, seen by The Times Higher , reveals that overall the old 5* and 5-rated departments would lose millions of pounds under all the metrics models suggested last week by the Department for Education and Skills.
At the same time, departments rated 3a and below would make substantial gains under each of the five models. The lowest scoring departments - 3b and below - received no funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England in 2002-03. But under the new models they could reap rewards of up to £16 million.
The head of research at one Russell Group institution said: "This seems to be a shambles."
Geoff Tomlinson, pro vice-chancellor for research at Sheffield University, said: "The damage that one could do to the country by not funding research in a serious way could be great."
He added: "If the Government asks Boeing or GlaxoSmithKline or Rolls-Royce who they work with, they will give the answer you would expect - the big research universities."
But this week Campaigning for Mainstream Universities, the lobby group representing 35 post-92 institutions, said that modern universities were better at extracting research income from businesses than their more traditional counterparts.
A study commissioned by the group and published this week says that newer institutions win three times as much money from industry per pound of government income as older universities.
The study also found that they received four times as much funding from the European Union as research-intensive universities.
Pam Tatlow, chief executive of CMU, said: "These findings suggest that a fairer distribution of university research funding would help boost economic performance and social regeneration in the UK."
Estelle Morris, former Education Secretary and now pro vice-chancellor of Sunderland University, said: "While we understand why the Government has, until now, focused research funding in the more traditional universities, it is clear that a new approach is called for. These universities are an unexploited resource."
Hefce this week attempted to allay concerns about the 2008 RAE. It stressed that its results would "substantially inform" funding in England "for a significant period from 2009-10 while any new model is being phased in".