Majority of research funding goes to minority of institutions

71 per cent went to 31 universities because of ‘narrowed’ definitions of excellence, claims report

September 11, 2014

Just five universities shared a quarter of recurrent funding for research in 2012-13, according to a report.

“Narrowed” definitions of excellence mean that half of research funding went to 12 universities, says the report published by Million+, which represents a group of post-92 institutions. Overall, 75 per cent went to only 31 universities, with the remaining 130 institutions sharing the remaining 25 per cent.

The group says that the government should rethink research funding calculations because current policies are directing resources to fewer universities, which affects students and businesses as well as the research base.

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of Million+, said: “Successive governments have stressed their desire to invest in research excellence, but if we are to deliver growth by research we also need to change the game. Definitions of excellence have been narrowed and funding parameters changed to produce unwarranted levels of concentration, which will only take the country so far.”

The report calls for increased investment in research given the low percentage of GDP invested in the area compared with other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. It also asks for a new funding stream for translational research, more funding for the social sciences and creative industries, and restoration of funding for 2* quality research.

The weighting given to 2* research in quality-related funding decisions by funding councils was reduced in 2010 and removed completely in 2012-13.

This has left research funding at non-Russell Group universities down 10 per cent since 2009-10, with post-92 institutions – where research funding was down 17 per cent, according to The Innovation Challenge: A New Approach to Research Funding – losing out the most. Over the same period, investment in research at Russell Group institutions has increased 3 per cent, it says.

The report also says that the distribution of research funding affects the resources and facilities available for students, which is “rarely mentioned”. “The investment per postgraduate student in modern universities is around 12 times less than in Russell Group universities, despite far larger numbers of students [at modern universities],” it adds.

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