Binary creep spotted in research funding plans

A plan by funding chiefs to link support for postgraduate research students to a university's research quality is another step towards recreating a "binary" higher education system, a pro vice-chancellor has claimed.

April 7, 2011

The Higher Education Funding Council for England currently allocates £205 million of Research Degree Programme (RDP) funding - which is intended to help meet the cost of supervising postgraduate research students - on the basis of student numbers.

The funding council is proposing to bolster that figure in 2012-13 with the £35 million that will be freed up by the withdrawal of quality-related funding currently allocated on the basis of 2* research. It also wants to restore the link between RDP allocation and research quality that existed before the 2008 research assessment exercise.

Hefce would prefer to allocate funding on the basis of how many research students a department has and how much of its research is rated 3* and 4*.

The funding council is also considering halting an institution's RDP funding entirely if its value exceeds a certain proportion of the institution's QR allocation.

The consultation document says the moves are designed "to encourage the supervision of students in higher-quality research environments" while "protecting the diversity of provision that our funding supports".

But John Scott, pro vice-chancellor for research at the University of Plymouth, said the changes, combined with recent moves by the research councils to introduce demand management measures and confine doctoral studentships to designated training centres, were part of efforts to concentrate research in a select band of institutions.

"The recreation of a binary system is happening across the board without this clear and obvious goal being stated or admitted by those responsible," he said.

Alan White, director of the graduate school at the University of East London, agreed.

"If enacted, these proposals will make it harder for post-92s to maintain doctoral activity and will pose another threat to our research activity," he said.

Les Ebdon, chair of the Million+ group of post-1992 institutions, said many universities were "seriously concerned" that research concentration had gone too far and would "damage the seedbeds that produce the research stars of the future".

"It is a policy that is as short-sighted as it is mean," he said.

paul.jump@tsleducation.com

http://bit.ly/gzmnsd

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 10 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Elly Walton illustration (7 July 2016)

Researchers in the liberal arts seem to have made it their mission to communicate in the most obscure fashion, says Zachary Foster

Daniel Mitchell illustration (14 July 2016)

Frank Furedi says the mournful mood on campus and the disparagement and silencing of Leave supporters betray an isolated scholarly class

Michael Parkin illustration (7 July 2016)

Rising immigration-related costs and lack of employer support send an unwelcoming message to international staff, says Jason Danely

Female Brazilian football/soccer fan celebrating with flag of Brazil, Best universities in Latin America

Brazil leads Times Higher Education’s debut ranking of the top universities in Latin America

Child drives miniature car into people

Smaller, newer alternative providers are less likely to pass higher education review, analysis says