Funding allocations: Winners and losers in research cash stakes

March 7, 2003

Alison Goddard analyses the results of funding allocations for 2003-04.

Some 20,000 university researchers will see cash siphoned from their departments to top up world-class research.

Funding for departments deemed to demonstrate national excellence in all research - rated 4 in the research assessment exercise - will be slashed to 58 per cent of what they would have received had the results of the 2001 RAE been fully funded.

Departments deemed to be nationally excellent in two-thirds of work submitted - those rated 3a - will receive no funding.

About two-fifths of academics whose work was submitted for the 2001 RAE will see a fall in departmental funding.

Some 12,000 researchers work in departments rated 4, representing a quarter of staff whose work was submitted to the RAE. Next year, they will share £118 million - less than £10,000 each - down from £139 million this year.

A further 6,000 working in departments rated 3, representing 12 per cent of the research workforce, will lose all funding apart from a small sum allocated to seven specific subject areas.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said: "The strategy of withdrawing funding from departments that have achieved national, and some international, excellence is very risky for a knowledge-based economy.

"Not only is it bizarre to reward high achievement by putting at risk thousands of high achievers' jobs, but to do this while aiming to raise our global research standing is frankly nonsensical."

Funding for departments that achieved the top grade 5* will be maintained in real terms. An extra £20 million is being shared between departments that were graded 5* in both of the two most recent RAEs.

Spending on grade 5 will be restored to 2001 levels, reversing last year's 12 per cent cut.

The Open University will see its research grant cut by more than 10 per cent. Of its researchers, 46 per cent work in departments rated 4 and 35 per cent work in departments rated 3a.

At Cranfield University, the research grant will also drop by more than 10 per cent. Some 89 per cent of its staff work in departments rated 4; the university did not gain any higher grades. Grants for Kent, Hull, City and Keele universities will all fall.

De Montfort University, which has the largest research grant of the new universities, will receive a 10 per cent cut. Some 44 per cent of its staff work in departments rated 4 and 38 per cent in departments rated 3a.

Of the 70 new universities that receive more than £1 million for research, there will be cuts at 20, including Sheffield Hallam, Manchester Metropolitan, Plymouth, Nottingham Trent, Hertfordshire, Oxford Brookes, West of England, Westminster, Middlesex, Greenwich, South Bank and East London.

Medical schools will also be hit. Last week, Michael Powell, executive secretary of the Council of Heads of Medical Schools, warned that cuts to 4-rated departments would be "disastrous". But the cuts to medical schools are not straightforward as they cover teaching and research and take into account changes in student numbers. Only St George's Hospital Medical School faces a cut in its research grant.

At the other end of the scale, the big four - Cambridge and Oxford universities, University College London and Imperial College London - will each get at least 15 per cent more research cash in the autumn. They will share more than £300 million between them - a third of England's research grant.

Of the 30 institutions that get a research grant of more than £10 million, 29 will get real-terms increases, 14 of which will be in double figures. The big winners are mostly Russell Group members, and include the universities of Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, Nottingham, Newcastle, Sussex and East Anglia and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. Surrey is the one research university to receive a cut - of 1.4 per cent.

Some 70 institutions will share £18 million to support research in emerging areas. Six of these will get more than £500,000 each for research in the fields of nursing; studies and professions allied to medicine; social work; art and design; communication, cultural and media studies; dance, drama and performing arts; and sports-related studies.

The money was allocated according to the number of research-active staff in departments graded 3a and 3b. The funding council set aside £20 million for this but was able to allocate only £18 million. It had to ensure that the rate of funding it provided per researcher did not exceed that for researchers in grade 4 departments. The £2 million balance has yet to be allocated.

The funding council has imposed conditions on these emerging areas, which means that institutions must submit research strategies for each unit of assessment.

Liverpool John Moores University has come out top. It has been promised more than £730,000 for this "capability" funding, boosting its research grant by 8.5 per cent. Leeds Metropolitan University's allocation of £640,000 will boost its overall research grant by 28 per cent.

But at Middlesex, the £630,000 for capability research is insufficient to compensate for the cut to grade 4 departments, where 56 per cent of its researchers work. Its overall research grant is down 5.3 per cent.

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

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