Research councils’ budgets slashed by £68m

March 2, 2007

Scores of academics will be denied research grants, postdoctoral research positions will be scrapped and hundreds of PhD students could be prevented from embarking on academic careers it was warned this week after the Government announced it would take £68 million away from the research councils’ budgets.

The money will be taken from the eight research councils to help fill a shortfall in the Department of Trade and Industry’s budget. The move, predicted by The Times Higher in December, has prompted fury.

Malcolm Grant, vice-chancellor of University College London and chair of the Russell Group, said: “It looks likely that this will prevent hundreds of PhD students from embarking on pioneering research that is crucial to the UK’s ability to rise to key challenges such as climate change, skills shortages and the demands of a successful knowledge economy.”

One source on the board of a research council estimated that the cuts could mean about 3,000 fewer research grants would be available for research across the sector and the loss of many postdoctoral research positions.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council will lose £6.7 million. It expects to cut the equivalent of 20 new research grants and reduce its annual competitive funding scheme for new equipment at its sponsored institutes.

The £5.3 million from the Arts and Humanities Research Council represents about 5 per cent of the council’s total budget of roughly £100 million. Philip Esler, chief executive of the AHRC, said: “It’s even more painful for us than others.”

A DTI spokesperson said: “The sum involved amounts to less than 1 per cent of nearly £10 billion awarded by the Government to science over the current threeyear spending period. The science budget has more than doubled since 1997 to £3.4 billion a year and continues to rise.”

Martin Rees, president of Royal Society, said: “The DTI has sent a worrying message about the priority accorded to science in the UK.”

Who lost what

  • AHRC £5.3 million
  • BBSRC £6.7 million
  • CCLRC £0.5 million
  • EPSRC £29 million
  • ESRC £3.0 million
  • MRC £10.7 million
  • Nerc £9.7 million
  • Pparc £3.1 million

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