The transparency review under way to help universities determine the full costs of research will also include an examination of whether university funding arrangements are sufficiently selective.
John Taylor, director general of the research councils, has confirmed that the Treasury not only expects universities to put in place systems to identify the full costs of research, but also expects the research and funding councils to examine their arrangements to ensure research funding streams are "complementary and coherent", and that arrangements are "sufficiently selective and (lead) to the identification and maintenance of centres of excellence".
"I cannot stress enough how important it will be for us to show progress on all of these before any future spending review," said Dr Taylor. He said the review is concentrating on university costing methodologies, but will consider the other parts of the transparency review at its March meeting.
Peter Cotgreave, director of Save British Science, said he was surprised research selectivity was being examined as part of the review.
"This seems to be nothing to do with transparency. Transparency is a technical issue, whereas selectivity is a policy issue. It concerns me that there is a review of selectivity going on that is not widely known. It is too important a thing on which to have a review without public debate," he said.
An Office of Science and Technology spokesman confirmed that selectivity was being looked at as part of the review. "At the moment we are collecting hard data on selectivity rather than opinions," he said.