Waiting for Dearing is likely to be the dominant theme in higher education policy over the next year. And it forms the main element in vice chancellors' responses to the Higher Education Funding Council for England's consultation over funding models.
The Hefce is running parallel consultations on the teaching and research elements in its funding model. Advice from the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals following its council meeting last week is that it should move carefully and not pre-empt any Dearing conclusions.
Offered a draft paper on teaching funding, the vice chancellors opted not to proceed with it on the grounds that little purpose could be served by it in advance of the inquiry. The paper emphasised the importance of inserting a degree of predictability and stability into the system and placing greater priority on greater collaboration and partnership between institutions, rather than the present over-emphasis on competition.
They approved a research funding paper, but it too asks "HEFCE to make minimal changes to the research funding method in advance of the outcome of the Dearing inquiry".
The CVCP said that it was happy with the current degree of selectivity. It accepted formula-based capital funding, while arguing that this would expose the inadequacy of current levels, along with a proposal that the number of active research staff should be one of the research volume indicators.
The CVCP agreed there was a case for a successor to the DevR research heading being created to assist institutions with a high proportion of applied rather than pure research, and suggested that this be done by recognising external income generation moderated by a quality multiplier.
The CVCP council also considered the Harris review of postgraduate education, an inquiry it co-sponsored. Its response, submitted jointly with the Standing Conference of Principals, emphasised the desirability of a "more robust" boundary between undergraduate and postgraduate education, the formation of a typology of courses and concern over the burden of quality assurance.