A reappraisal of the full indirect costs of university research is close to completion, and the results are likely to influence the government's decision on dual support.
Consultants Coopers and Lybrand have for the past three months been reassessing the indirect costs of projects funded by research councils after the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals questioned the figure of Pounds 110 million in the Dearing report.
Lord Dearing said this much was needed for research councils to meet the full indirect costs of the university programmes they fund.
The results of the study, commissioned by the Office of Science and Technology, the CVCP, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the British Universities Finance Directors Group, are being kept under wraps as the report is still in draft stage.
The results are expected to be used over the next month by the bodies as part of their submissions to the government's comprehensive spending review.
In its Dearing response this week, the government noted the study, saying it would not make a decision on dual support until after the review. It did, however, acknowledge support was needed for the system and for the research councils to pay full indirect costs.
The Coopers and Lybrand survey was commissioned in November after a meeting between science minister John Battle and the CVCP. According to a CVCP memo, the minister and the CVCP questioned the Pounds 110 million estimate. "This is too conservative," the memo says, suggesting, in its response to Dearing, a figure nearer Pounds 500 million.
If the government decides that research councils must meet the full indirect costs of research, it will have to find the extra money or make the research councils fully fund less research. Alternatively, there could be a transfer from the funding councils to the research councils, but this seems unlikely.