Treasury papers published after the chancellor’s Budget speech today detail “a package of measures to broaden and strengthen support for postgraduate researchers (including both masters and PhDs)”, as well as £400 million for scientific infrastructure.
Mr Osborne announced a loans scheme offering taught master’s students up to £10,000, to be available from 2016-17, in December’s Autumn Statement.
The postgraduate package, says the Treasury, includes “introducing income-contingent loans of up to £25,000 to support PhDs and research-based masters degrees. These loans will be in addition to existing funding, and designed to minimise public subsidy. The government will work with research councils, universities and industry to examine how best to design them so that they complement existing funding streams and continue to support the most excellent research.”
There are no details in the document on timescale of introduction, on cost of the loans, on repayment requirements or on any restrictions as to who can access them. The government had previously announced that the taught master’s loans would only be available to those under the age of 30.
The package also includes “launching a review into how the government can strengthen its funding for postgraduate research. This review will examine the balance between number and level of research stipends to ensure that the UK’s offer remains internationally competitive.”
The review will assess “options to strengthen partnerships and co-funding between government, industry and charities. This will include increased support for crowd-funding for wider research to attract investment from individual members of society and business.”
The Treasury Budget document says that “demand for individuals with doctorates is outstripping supply, both in the UK and internationally”, while countries such as the US and China “are competing more for top researchers and have increased PhD student numbers in recent years, whereas in the UK PhD enrolment has remained relatively flat”.
A fact sheet issued by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills issued following the chancellor’s announcement on postgraduate loans said: “Government will shortly consult on how best to proceed with these proposals.”
On science, the Budget document announces that the government “will commit £400 million to 2020-21 for the next round of funding for cutting-edge scientific infrastructure”.
It adds that this will be “a competitive fund, based on scientific excellence, which seeks to lever industrial and charitable funds. The government welcomes exciting proposals from across the UK that aim to push scientific boundaries and maximise scientific impact.”
However, a BIS fact sheet on the funding made clear the money was not new and was “an allocation of funding from within the Science Capital envelope, announced in the Science and Innovation Strategy in December 2014”.
The Treasury’s budget document goes on to say that the government will provide £138 million of funding “towards the UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC), subject to a satisfactory business case and the provision of substantial co-funding. The UKCRIC will apply research to ensure that the UK’s infrastructure is resilient and responsive to environmental and economic impacts. It will have hubs in London, and further centres initially in Birmingham, Newcastle, Sheffield and Southampton.”
There is also £100 million for research and development into intelligent mobility and £40 million to develop applications for “internet of things” technologies.
The Treasury also says that the government will “provide the UK’s world-leading research institutes with greater freedoms to attract the brightest minds, re-invest commercial income and develop cutting-edge technology”.