Bidding for funds too heavy a burden, Hefce says

April 21, 2000

Funding chiefs are to recognise the burden of accountability faced by institutions.

A report commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England will suggest ways of rationalising information collection to minimise the administrative load on universities and colleges.

The report, due for publication in June, advocates the development of an "investor/partnership model" between institutions and government bodies.

Universities and colleges have long complained that they spend too much time and money bidding for small pockets of cash.

Hefce chief executive, Sir Brian Fender, told delegates at the Hefce annual conference last week that he would like to move away from a bidding process.

The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals welcomed the move. A spokeswoman said: "It will be excellent news if we can see a reduction in the paperwork and time-consuming business of bidding for new funds. The CVCP has been pressing hard for a more efficient way of allocating specific initiative monies.

The report will suggest that bidding exercises should be rationalised. It will also recommend the further coordination of information gathered for the teaching quality assessments.

However, the distribution of funding through defined channels will remain. The funding council is looking at whether to create a new funding stream for strategic research that levers in money from other sources.

Sir Brian described one "driver of research" as being "strategically supported programmes of research at the university level, taking into account local, regional and national needs".

He said: "We need to explore whether investment in that area would lead to fruitful and costeffective research."

The University of Greenwich, for example, has a reputation for taking a strategic approach to research. David Wills, acting vice-chancellor, said: "We realised the growing importance of research. As an ex-poly, we realised we needed a step change. We created research centres in areas where we felt we might be able to do something truly world-class."

The university passes the money it gets through the research assessment exercise straight to departments, and tops it up with Pounds 500,000 a year from its own funds.

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