Competition for research funds

March 31, 1995

The benefits of research council-funded research - output, training, undergraduate experience - identified by Derek Roberts (THES March 17) apply equally to new as well as established universities, so that in an ideal world, applications to research councils from the new universities would be treated equally with those from established ones. The rate of success does not bear this out. One possible explanation is that the quality of research at the new universities is actually bad. If this is so, then clearly funding should not flow there, and some at least should move towards teaching only.

However, the outputs measured in the last assessment exercise were sufficient to secure a reasonable level of funding; this probably indicates that individual researchers are doing good science in the new universities, but that there are few large, nationally/internationally recognised groups, which can regularly secure research council funding.

Clearly departments will have to target and use available funds more effectively if they are to compete successfully for research council funding. In the meantime, it is vital that HEFCE funding is maintained. This will largely depend on the outcome of the next RAE; the criteria used should recognise that the benefits of research in the new universities are the same as those in the established ones, and reward the efforts being made by staff.

Peter J. Lumsden

University of Central Lancashire

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