Loan fund for research

October 10, 1997

THE disappearance of hundreds of university research posts (THES, October 3) that would inevitably follow an unfunded increase in the overhead on research council grants, underlines the need for care in planning any change to the status quo.

While few would disagree that attempting to maintain internationally competitive academic research "on the cheap" will ultimately be self-defeating, the movement to "full funding', as the Dearing report on higher education recommended, could cause serious damage if pushed too quickly.

Why not have an early injection of cash (perhaps via a repayable "loan fund", arranged to avoid impact on the PSBR) to allow targeted improvements in research infrastructure, while everyone looks at the optimum "steady-state" model for university research, which takes proper account of the nation's potential in basic research, education and training, within the new priorities and funding levels that may be expected in the next millennium?

Let us avoid a "quick fix" solution. The opportunity for a new appraisal may not be repeated for some time, given the 35-year interval between Robbins and Dearing.

Ken Pounds

Professor of physics University of Leicester

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