Funding fillip for further study

March 4, 2005

Universities in England are to get £60 million extra for postgraduate training and supervision in 2005-06, allaying fears that new research-degree funding arrangements would mean financial losses for leading research universities.

The rise, which will take the annual budget for postgraduate training from £120 million to £180 million, will be announced in next week's grant letter to universities from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Rama Thirunamachandran, Hefce director of research and innovation, said: "There is significant additional money involved so no institutions will be disadvantaged."

Universities have been concerned about the impact of Hefce's streamlined approach to research-degree funding. Rather than three separate funding streams, from 2005-06 there will be a single fund.

The funding council will pay a standard contribution to supervision costs of home and European Union research students.

A cost study undertaken last year showed no major differences in money spent by universities on supervising and training postgraduate researchers between 4, 5 or 5* rated departments, Mr Thirunamachandran said.

Previously, training for first-year research students was funded through the Hefce teaching grant. Support for second and third-year home and EU students meanwhile came from the supervision fund within Hefce's "quality-related" research funding.

The number of home, EU and overseas full-time second and third-year students also previously contributed to measures used by Hefce to gauge the volume of research activity at an institution. This meant departments with higher ratings in the last research assessment exercise received a larger share of postgraduate funds.

Under the new funding arrangements, only postgraduate research students registered in departments rated 4 or above in the last RAE will qualify for funding to compensate for the loss to highly rated research departments.

"This will ensure that there is a quality element to it," said Mr Thirunamachandran. Home and EU full-time students in their first year of study registered in departments rated below 4 in the RAE will no longer be eligible for support.

Hefce says it will provide a temporary safety net for units rated 3a in non-capability subjects, funding that will be withdrawn gradually over four years.

Final institutional allocations will be announced in the 2005 grant letter next week.

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