'Golden triangle' to win funding riches

Hefce move to concentrate research will see many institutions lose out to elite few. Zoë Corbyn writes

Half of the Russell Group of large research-intensive universities, most of the 1994 Group of small research-intensive universities, and almost all the teaching-focused institutions in England are set to lose research funding in real terms as a result of a change to the funding formula.

But under the change announced last week, a handful of elite universities and specialist colleges are in line for big increases in quality-related research funding, modelling suggests.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has altered the funding formula to give a bigger weighting to "world-leading" (4*) research in the 2010-11 allocations. It said the move was an "initial step" to addressing the Government's desire for greater concentration of research.

Modelling undertaken for Times Higher Education by Evidence, a subsidiary of Thomson Reuters, based on last year's funding, indicates that the universities of Cambridge and Oxford will gain over £5 million in funding between them.

The other institutions in the Cambridge-Oxford-London "golden triangle" - University College London, Imperial College London and the London School of Economics - will also receive big cash windfalls, as will the University of Manchester.

The Russell Group universities of Newcastle, which is the biggest overall loser, Liverpool and Birmingham will haemorrhage about half a million pounds each, as will the University of Leicester, a member of the 1994 Group.

The Institute of Education, University of York and Goldsmiths, University of London, are the only 1994 Group institutions set to profit from the change.

Teaching-led universities, which collectively wrested millions of pounds in funding from their research-led rivals following the 2008 research assessment exercise, will almost all lose out, although Hefce will continue to fund excellence wherever it is found.

The analysis suggests that specialist colleges will see the biggest percentage rises. London Business School leads the pack with a whopping 8.7 per cent gain, followed by the Royal College of Art and the Institute of Cancer Research.

The Russell Group and the 1994 Group both favour greater research concentration, but Les Ebdon, chair of Million+, which represents new universities, said Hefce "appears to be on a very slippery slope of promoting more concentration, which could result in a significant reduction in the funding of world-leading research in many universities".

Funding for the University of Cambridge is set to rise by £2.8 million (3.7 per cent); the University of Oxford by £2.4 million (3.2 per cent); and UCL by £1.3 million (2.2 per cent). The University of Newcastle will lose £583,000 (2.3 per cent); the University of Leicester £461,000 (3 per cent); and the University of Liverpool £451,000 (1.8 per cent).

The Evidence model is based on the changes to 2009-10 allocations using the new funding formula. It does not account for the £32 million increase to the QR budget for 2010-11 that will see funding maintained in real terms.

Credit: analysis by Evidence
Change in 2009-10 funding allocation under new weighting



Data analysis undertaken by Evidence, a subsidiary of Thomson Reuters, for Times Higher Education. The Evidence model is based on the changes to 2009-10 allocations in mainstream QR (excluding London weighting) using the new funding formula. That is, the funding ratio in the model for “world-leading” (4*),“internationally excellent” (3*), and “recognised internationally” (2*) work is changed to 1:3:9, compared to the old formula of 1:3:7. The model does not account for the £32 million increase to the research budget planned for 2010-11 that will see funding maintained in real terms or any other modification that will be applied in 2010-11 funding. Data are drawn from: www.hefce.ac.uk/research/funding/QRFunding/

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