Research elite lift off

March 6, 1998

TOP research universities will gain in this year's higher education funding round which makes cuts of less than 1 per cent per student overall.

Research is proving the launchpad for a small band of institutions, now able to enjoy the results of good grades in the 1996 research assessment exercise, together with incomes of up to Pounds 53 million from collaborative projects with industry.

Some specialist institutions also receive boosts in grant following a funding council inquiry into their particular needs.

No university or college will lose in cash terms this year so long as it can get students to pay up under the new fee arrangements. But 24 of the 135 higher education institutions and 72 further education colleges have increases below the 2.75 per cent rate of inflation.

Student numbers are up by about 6,000 with another 8,500 or so places to be allocated later in the month, according to bids. No extra money has been set aside for capital projects in 1998-99. Institutions will have to find this cash themselves.

Sir Brian Fender, HEFCE chief executive, said the new financial arrangements introduced by the government had started to improve the overall funding position of higher education, which has seen a 35 per cent cut in unit funding over the last eight years.

"We need to build on the 1998-99 level of funding in future years to enable institutions to maintain standards, offer opportunities to a wider range of students and ensure that higher education in this country remains internationally competitive," he said.

Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals chief executive Diana Warwick said: "While this is a welcome step in the right direction for England there is a long way to go in addressing the financial crisis still facing the sector."

University winners from this year's funding round are: Goldsmiths, up 5.1 per cent; Imperial and York, up 5.7 per cent; and University College London, up 7.1 per cent. All performed well in the 1996 RAE but had some of their research money taken away last year to help institutions which had done badly. In 1998-99 they will keep all of it.

Luton, Derby and Lincolnshire and Humberside universities also see relatively large increases in overall grant, mainly due to a new method of distributing teaching money to equalise average levels of funding.

University losers from the HEFCE allocations are: Aston, City, Coventry, East Anglia, Exeter, Manchester and Queen Mary and Westfield, with cash terms increases of just 1.8 per cent each. All were helped with large sums of safety net money last year after losing out in the RAE. All except Manchester receive help again this year, with more than Pounds 1 million worth of support for Exeter.

This time, the funding council is using Pounds 4 million from its Pounds 10 million pot of contingency money rather than taking it from winners.

Following an inquiry headed by Edinburgh University principal Sir Stewart Sutherland, 25 out of 46 specialist institutions will receive a 10 per cent premium in their teaching grant. Of these, the Institute of Education, Cranfield University, the Royal College of Music, Royal College of Art, Trinity College of Music, Royal Academy of Music and Royal Northern College of Music will have additional funding on top.

This week the funding council also released figures on generic-qualifying income, the amount of income universities and colleges receive from users of research for collaborative projects where institutions retain intellectual property and publication rights.

Amounting to just under Pounds 618.5 million in total, these show Imperial College receives Pounds 53.2 million, Kings College London Pounds 40.2 million, Cambridge Pounds 33.6 million and Oxford Pounds 26.2 million, while just under a dozen, mainly new, universities get less than Pounds 1 million each.

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