Pounds 300m bill for overheads

March 6, 1998

Research councils should pay universities up to three times more in indirect costs for research, consultants Coopers and Lybrand may recommend, writes Julia Hinde.

The consultants have been re-analysing the indirect costs, including buildings, computing and libraries, of research undertaken at 15 of the country's top research universities.

Sir Ron Dearing said that it would cost Pounds 110 million extra a year for councils to meet full indirect costs or overheads.

At the moment research councils pay just 46 per cent of the non-academic staff costs as indirect costs. Dearing suggested research councils should pay full indirect costs, and proposed the figure be raised to 60 per cent and up to 100 per cent in certain cases. But according to a source close to the Coopers' report, the new survey has put the figure for full indirect costs at between 100 and 140 per cent of staff costs. Meeting this might cost research councils nearer Pounds 300 million a year.

The survey, ordered by the Higher Education Funding Council, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the Office of Science and Technology, and the British Universities Finance Directors Group, is being fed into the comprehensive spending review.

The OST, part of the Department of Trade and Industry, is thought to have made its submission, as has Sir Robert May, who has taken an overview of science spending across government departments. OST is thought to have made use of the Coopers' report. Its submission is thought to amount to a case for up to Pounds 500 million extra a year for science by the end of the parliament.

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