University staff involved in training postgraduate research students and postdoctoral researchers are worried that they will lose ring-fenced funding for their work.
Concerns that research council funding for the training of researchers will become part of general university funds emerged at a meeting of members of the UK Grad network this week. There was a fear that such a move could lead to the money being spent on other university services rather than on training.
John Gibbons, a member of the UK Council for Graduate Education's executive committee, said: "It is a widespread concern for people managing the delivery of the skills agenda. There is a danger that, if we do not embed existing programmes in permanent arrangements in institutions, the agenda might lose impetus and direction."
Staff would like the training budget to be ring-fenced and would like audits and reports to ensure that the money is spent on skills and not other university services, Dr Gibbons said.
Ellen Pearce, manager of the UK Grad programme, said: "Because of the upcoming comprehensive spending review, the research councils have not said what will happen. It would be positive if the funding for skills went into the baseline funding, but it needs to be identifiable and reported on to force universities to maintain their work in this area."
The Government gave research councils just under £30 million for skills training in the science budget between 2003-04 and 2005-06.