Postgrad funding plans under fire

May 24, 1996

Martin Harris, vice chancellor of Manchester University, has moved to quell the anger of new university and college heads over funding proposals in his review of postgraduate education.

Vice chancellors of former polytechnics this week condemned key recommendations in the report of the review, chaired by Professor Harris, as "regressive" and "unbalanced".

They strongly objected to proposals to limit an important element of funding for research students to departments achieving a rating of 3 or over in the Research Assessment Exercise and those obtaining significant research grants.

Some suggested the review's conclusions had been heavily influenced by powerful bodies representing big research institutions, such as the Russell Group, and failed to take account of leading edge work taking place in some departments with a rating of 2.

But Professor Harris stressed the importance of his group's recommendation that the funding council should take account of a department's "capacity to obtain significant research grants", as well as its RAE rating, when allocating research-related money.

"The group would very much hope this additional phrase, which is an integral part of the recommendation, will be borne in mind by the funding council. It is not our intention to stifle clearly developing research facilities," he said.

Clive Booth, vice chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, suggested the proposals were the "unbalanced" result of "a degree of collusion among those trying to keep research funding within a very narrow circle".

Brian Roper, vice chancellor of the University of North London, blasted the proposals as "seriously regressive".

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