Funding allocations: UUK tells of threat to clinical sciences

March 7, 2003

Claire Sanders looks at the effect of the funding allocations on medical schools.

Nearly two-thirds of community- based clinical research will be hit by cuts to departments rated 4 or below in the research assessment exercise, Universities UK warned this week.

The Council of Heads of Medical Schools estimates that in a worse-case scenario medical schools could lose £14.6 million on 2002-03.

Launching a report on universities and the National Health Service, called Partners in Care , UUK chief executive Baroness Warwick, said: "Proposals to cut Higher Education Funding Council for England funding for research in clinical subjects to those units that scored 4 or less in the 2001 RAE risk undermining research in dentistry, community and hospital-based clinical subjects, and clinical laboratory sciences."

The report says that more than half of research carried out in universities is healthcare related.

Christopher Edwards, vice-chancellor of Newcastle University and former chair of the CHMS, said: "These cuts create an unstable situation. Many clinical academics might decide that now is a good time to move into the NHS full time."

Universities already face problems recruiting the clinical academics needed to teach the expanding student numbers necessary for the government's NHS plan to work.

Sir Martin Harris, chair of UUK's health committee, warned that pay rises to consultants and other staff in the NHS, without similar rises for clinical academics, threatened to create an unequal labour market.

Partners in Care says that of the ,000 doctors and dentists who work as consultants in the NHS, about 3,000 are employed by universities. It says that in 2000-01 there were nearly 146,000 full-time undergraduates studying health-related programmes in the UK, including medicine and nursing.

• The Council of Deans of Nursing welcomed Hefce's decision to create a development fund for 3a and 3b departments in emerging subjects, including nursing and allied health professions.

Dame Jill Macleod Clark, chair of the council, called on Hefce to confirm that this would be a long-term fund. "Institutions will be required to submit a research strategy document on how they plan to use this funding.

This can only be meaningful on the basis of a long-term commitment."

• The 2003-04 English funding allocations tables are available in the Statistics section of the website. Click here to view.

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