All Welsh universities ‘deserve’ share of research cash

Welsh Assembly committee says institutions should receive minimum award regardless of quantity of world-class research

May 22, 2014

Universities in Wales should all receive a minimum amount of research funding even if they do too little world-class research to be awarded any money under the current system, a committee of Assembly members has recommended.

The Welsh Assembly’s Finance Committee suggested that every higher education institution receive at least £500,000 a year. Jocelyn Davies, the chair of the committee, told Times Higher Education that it had heard that Glyndwr University received no research funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales because it submitted too few academics conducting “world-class” research to the 2008 research assessment exercise.

The lack of any research funding from Hefcw meant that Glyndwr missed out on other forms of matched research cash. Giving it a relatively small amount “wouldn’t make much difference” to the overall budget, the Plaid Cymru Assembly member said.

In practice such a policy would affect only Glyndwr as all other universities received at least £500,000 of the £71.1 million quality-related research budget in 2013-14.

The committee also warns that the rising student debt taken on by the Welsh government may not be sustainable. Between 2012-13 and 2016-17 it will cost the devolved administration £1.6 billion to issue student loans, of which an estimated £476 million will never be repaid.

The committee cites evidence that the model used to calculate student loan write-offs, the same as that used in England, is flawed, and calls on the Welsh government to commission more detailed predictions.

Huw Lewis, the Welsh minister for education and skills, told the committee that the government’s student loan liability was “minuscule” compared with England’s. Asked if he had explored whether the government had a financial contingency if the calculations proved to be wrong, Mr Lewis said: “I have not asked officials as yet to undertake modelling in that regard, although you are right to point to it as something that we will need to do.”

The committee’s report, Higher Education Funding, was released on 15 May.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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