Funding councils need more power to intervene in the development of particular disciplines in higher education, vice chancellors and academics heard this week, writes Tony Tysome.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England, which is reviewing the way it funds teaching and research, would like a more effective system for influencing which subject areas are given a high priority, said Bahram Bekhradnia, HEFCE's director of policy.
Speaking at a conference on departmental reviews on Wednesday, he said the council's review might lead to "a more interventionist approach" to funding teaching which would change its relationship with institutions as a result.
"We are in a position now where if we want to, or if the Government asks us, we can encourage the development of some particular discipline or aspect of academic development, we have very blunt instruments for achieving that," he said.
Mr Bekhradnia admitted there are weaknesses in the present system for reviewing provision, including a danger that interdisciplinary work might be discouraged.
Roger Brown, chief executive of the Higher Education Quality Council, argued that a single approach to reviewing teaching and research was needed at departmental level.