Imperial confirms exit from CaSE

Institution redirects £3K lobby group subscription to support 'core activities'. Paul Jump reports

May 26, 2011

The institution that was awarded the most funding by the UK research councils last year has confirmed plans to cancel its subscription to the Campaign for Science and Engineering, despite the role the group played in protecting science spending from cuts.

Times Higher Education understands that Imperial College London previously paid an annual subscription of about £3,000 to the lobby group, which was widely credited with helping to secure a ring-fenced, flat-cash research budget in last October's Comprehensive Spending Review.

However, Imperial announced last autumn that it would not be renewing its subscription, and it has now confirmed that decision.

A spokesman said the university regularly reviews its subscriptions to membership organisations to "ensure they complement and add value to the college's activities".

"In reviewing its membership of CaSE, the college confirmed its support of the group's aims and objectives, but considered that the funds required for the subscription fee could be better directed to support Imperial's core activities," he said.

Imperial was awarded grants totalling £96 million by the research councils in 2009-10, and was awarded another £93 million in research funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. This puts it joint top with the University of Oxford for research income from mainstream public sources.

Imperial had been a member of the lobby group since 1992. Now, apart from the London School of Economics which has little focus on science, it is the only Russell Group institution that is not a member of CaSE. Currently 43 universities are members.

Imran Khan, CaSE director, said: "Imperial is one of the world's wealthiest and most important science and engineering institutions. All the direct feedback we've had from them is that they think our work is really valuable for the sector as a whole, so we're a bit mystified by their decision."

Mike Hounslow, pro vice-chancellor for engineering at the University of Sheffield, said CaSE had been particularly "vocal and effective" in the past 12 months.

As well as the CSR settlement, he also commended the organisation for its lobbying of the Home Office over the immigration cap, which universities had feared could prevent them from recruiting foreign academics and students.

"CaSE is a route for us to influence policymakers but is also a route by which policymakers' thoughts are transferred back to us. As a university we get excellent value for money and I am sure all research intensives benefit from CaSE's work," he said.

David Price, vice-provost for research at University College London, also praised the organisation's ability to "gather everyone's view and come up with a more balanced view" to present to policymakers.

"I can't speak for other institutions but it is certainly my view that UCL should put its money where its mouth is and support CaSE as appropriate," he said.

Imperial's decision to leave CaSE coincided with the departure of its deputy rector for research, Sir Peter Knight, last autumn. David Begg, principal of Imperial's business school, is standing in during a search for a permanent replacement.

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