THE Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals is calling for an expansion in university research collaboration projects in order to offset the funding squeeze.
In a similar move, Scotland's degree-awarding institutions have jointly drawn up a framework to help improve their research.
The CVCP is surveying universities in an attempt to define best practice in setting up inter-university and university-industry collaboration in research. It plans to submit the results as supplementary evidence to the Dearing inquiry.
The move to greater collaboration is set against the CVCP's forecast of an annual Pounds 520 million gap in funding for research infrastructure by 2000, which excludes a shortfall in the research equipment budget.
CVCP head of finance Tony Bruce revealed the push for collaboration at a seminar organised by lecturers' union Natfhe in London last Friday. Brian Fender, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, who also spoke, committed HEFCE to supporting diversity of research across the sector but added that HEFCE also had to protect outstanding centres of research.
The 14 universities and colleges of Scotland have also joined forces to protect research. John Sizer, chief executive of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, which has backed a Pounds 50,000 study into managing research called "University Research in Scotland: Developing a Policy Framework", said he hoped it would influence the Dearing inquiry.
The report sets out a range of options from which institutions can construct individual policy. SHEFC has also awarded the consortium another Pounds 90,000 to develop interdisciplinary research, electronic discussion groups among researchers, and postgraduate research training material.
* The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council is to reward 5-star rated research departments in Scotland with a one-off grant of Pounds 500,000.