Mistaken ambitions

March 14, 1997

You suggest that the Higher Education Fund-ing Council for England (Editorial, THES, March 7) has an ambition to control the spending on research conducted in higher education institutions. I can assure you that this is not the case. We have persistently and vigorously defended the principle of the block grant.

The funding we provide for research enables institutions to set their own priorities, nurture new talent and collaborate with users and other research funders.

We are moving towards a rational basis for our calculation of the amount of research money for each subject. Council funding for research reflects historical spending patterns. We want to explore whether to introduce a factor which takes account of future spending requirements. Most institutions re-plying to our recent consultation supported this idea. They recognised that we have to make the best possible use of the council's grant. It is only common sense that we should, in wide consultation, attempt to invest in areas of need and subjects in which the UK has particular strength.

Doing this will be difficult. But universities and colleges along with other partners will be central to any informed discussion on future priorities.

Brian Fender

Chief executive Higher Education Funding Council for England

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