New Brexit support for English universities capped at £8 million

Additional funding announced by Research England might not cover shortfalls faced by research powerhouses

November 28, 2022
Gibraltar, Spain 12-May 2017 Telescope at a viewing spot on the Rock of Gibraltar in May 2017.
Source: iStock

English universities will receive up to £5 million each in quality-related (QR) research funding and a maximum of £3 million in excellence-linked capital grants to help mitigate the loss of access to European research programmes.

Explaining how an additional £100 million in QR funding announced last week by science minister George Freeman will distributed across the sector, Research England said individual higher education institutions will be awarded a maximum of £5 million in 2022-23 to “support research capabilities and provide stability ahead of a final decision on Horizon association”.

Five institutions – the universities of Cambridge, Manchester and Oxford, Imperial College London and UCL – will receive the maximum of £5 million in QR in 2022-23, which should be spent “developing, supporting and amplifying international collaborations and partnerships”, recruiting internationally, “securing and sustaining the talent pipeline” and “mitigating shortfalls in research income due to uncertainty over EU research grants” among other objectives, explained Research England on 28 November.

The universities of Birmingham, Leeds and Nottingham will receive in excess of £3 million in additional QR funding each, while King’s College London will pick up more than £4 million, with the minimum amount of new funding received by qualifying institutions set at £10,000.

A further £70.6 million for research infrastructure spending has also been released, with English universities receiving up to £3 million each in 2022-23 under the allocations.

The awards follow last week’s announcement that almost £500 million would become available for science because, according to Mr Freeman, “ongoing uncertainty over access to EU programmes is placing increasing pressure on UK universities and research organisations”.

The additional funds are likely to have been diverted from the £2.5 billion set aside between 2021 and 2023 for Horizon Europe association or a “Plan B” programme to replace funds lost by universities following the UK’s continued exclusion from the European Union’s flagship research scheme.

While the additional QR funding whose distribution is decided on the results of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework will be welcomed by universities, it is unlikely to fully compensate some institutions for the loss of access to EU funds in the longer term. Cambridge, which will be given £8 million in 2022-23 from the new allocations, received £52 million in funding from European Commission sources in 2020-21, according to its latest financial accounts, while Oxford picked up £57.8 million in research grants from “European Commission and other EU research bodies” in 2020-21, about 9 per cent of its £653 million research income.

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