Pounds 50m of grant goes west

March 3, 2000

The lion's share of the Pounds 68 million provided by chancellor Gordon Brown to set up the pioneering partnership between Cambridge University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will go to the United States, a new report confirms.

A report published yesterday by Cambridge University's governing council said that of the total Pounds 84 million funding package - made up of taxpayers' money and Pounds 16 million from industry - MIT will get Pounds 50 million, compared with Cambridge's Pounds 34 million.

David Livesey, Cambridge's director of the partnership, the Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI), insisted that the money going to the US would benefit Britain. "CMI will ensure that the expenditures incurred meet the aims of the chancellor of the exchequer [to improve the UK's economic performance]," he said. Research at MIT would be into Britain's economic competitiveness.

The report confirms that CMI will be set up as a limited company, expected to have charitable status. The vice-chancellor of Cambridge and the president of MIT will be non-executive directors and each university will appoint one other non-executive director and an executive director.

"The directors collectively will be accountable for their management of the public funding received by CMI," the report said.

CMI will have separate agreements with each university, and individual departments will negotiate for the delivery of the three key programmes - integrated research, which will get Pounds 36 million, undergraduate education (Pounds 20 million) and professional practice programmes (Pounds 20 million).

Despite earlier ministerial assurances, little of the public funding will filter through for the benefit of other British institutions: Pounds 8 million has been earmarked for a "national competitiveness network", to spread information among universities engaged in similar research.

But part of this sum will be used for Cambridge's own Entrepreneurship Centre and administrative costs for CMI spread over five years.

Dr Livesey said it was too early to say how much of the Pounds 8 million would benefit other institutions. He confirmed that the figure was not fixed but simply formed the basis of further negotiations with the Office of Science and Technology.

Competing universities were already angry that the Treasury grant to the CMI project - 50 times more than the average sum given to any other institution under similar government schemes - was given without any competitive tender.

The report makes clear that Cambridge will invest millions in distance learning packages. While Cambridge has come "to no particular view about the likelihood of globalisation leading to the agglomeration of world-class universities into four or five major groupings", it has to embrace globalisation.

Its plan to achieve this, which has to be approved by Cambridge's community of more than 3,000 academics, is expected to be launched this July.

"The council and the general board are clear that, although CMI is unusual in its origins and in the scale of its funding, the issues that it raises do not breach any fundamental principles," the report said.

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