New methods of financing doctoral training pose “a significant financial risk” for universities, according to a report.
Institutions that are unable to secure the matched investment from industry necessary to run new centres for doctoral training may “face significant challenges in funding provision”, says the report by Universities UK.
This could affect the “dynamism of the UK research base as a whole” and potentially jeopardise the ability of these universities to secure funding in the future.
Research councils are increasingly distributing finance for doctoral studentships through Doctoral Training Partnerships and Centres for Doctoral Training, which typically bring together large cohorts of students and offer additional grounding in technical and transferable skills.
Evidence suggests this move has helped to raise the standards of doctoral training in the UK, according to the report. But it warns: “[T]he match-funding requirement entailed by participation in DTP and CDT bids represents a significant financial risk for universities…it is vital that public funding for postgraduate research provision rewards excellence, but is also sufficiently flexible to ensure that high-quality provision is sustained in the longer term.”
The Funding Environment for Universities 2014: Research and Postgraduate Research Training report also says that funding has become slightly more concentrated in the universities that historically have secured the most money.
In 2013-14, the top 20 per cent of universities in terms of the funding distribution secured three-quarters of all quality-related research money – up from 73 per cent in 2010-11. However, since 2009-10, some institutions in the lowest 20 per cent of universities for the funding distribution appear to have “lost access to research council funding”, according to the report due to be published on 12 June.
“Any change in the concentration of research funding across the higher education sector may have a significant effect on the health and dynamism of the research base in the long term,” it says.
The report also warns of the risks posed to research from the stagnating number of students taking postgraduate research qualifications. These students are “crucial to the strength of both the UK research base and the future highly-skilled workforce”, it says.