The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council has sent out a clear signal that research funds for low-rated departments are under threat, and that institutions should give up on areas where they are weak.
In its corporate plan for 1995-98, the council warns that constraints on public expenditure will prevent funding from growing as rapidly as the volume and quality of research might justify. It says that next year's research assessment exercise will show an increased amount of worthwhile Scottish research.
"The principal concern of the council will be to preserve excellence in research and therefore to maintain the level of funding for the highest rated research departments," said the council.
A unified higher education system has enabled the former central institutions to raise their research profile, but the material benefits have been tempered by all institutions trying to improve research quality in less strong areas while increasing their support for areas of excellence.
The council wants institutions to make a considered assessment of their research capacity and "discourage unrealistic aspirations".
It also warns that it will take steps to ensure that research is not expanded at the expense of teaching, although in the short term, it will continue to earmark 5 per cent of recurrent research funding for pump-priming.
The council underlines its enthusiasm for the dual support system and emphasises its role in boosting the competitiveness of Scotland's economy by encouraging small-scale collaborative ventures with small companies.