Scotland’s research cash: more pie for lucky few

Elite claim ever-greater share, while 11 institutions fight over remaining 11%, says NUS Scotland analysis

February 5, 2015

A handful of elite institutions are increasing their dominant share of research funding in Scotland, an analysis has suggested.

The University of Edinburgh alone received 36.4 per cent of the research excellence grant distributed by the Scottish Funding Council for 2014-15, which represents £89.1 million of the £244.7 million pot. That was an increase on the 30.4 per cent share it enjoyed in 2008-09, according to a study by the National Union of Students in Scotland.

This year, the University of Glasgow claimed 19.3 per cent, or £47.3 million, of the total.

Other institutions receiving sizeable shares included the University of Aberdeen (9.2 per cent), the University of Dundee (9 per cent), the University of St Andrews (7.7 per cent) and the University of Strathclyde (7.2 per cent).

This left just £.5 million, or 11.2 per cent, to be shared among the remaining 11 institutions, and Heriot-Watt University took £10.6 million of this, according to NUS Scotland.

In 2008-09, 13.5 per cent remained to be distributed between the other 11 universities.

The research excellence grant is designed to support the maintenance of the research base of Scotland, alongside other sources of income. It was last distributed according to scoring that included the results of the 2008 research assessment exercise, but the SFC has been consulting on the future methodology, which will use the results of the 2014 research excellence framework.

In its response, NUS Scotland says “serious consideration” should be given to restoring funding for 2*-rated research, if not also 1*.

“We are concerned that concentrating the vast majority of research at only a handful of institutions could damage the student experience and threaten the principle that all universities should be both research and teaching institutions, and funded in a way that supports them to achieve that,” said Vonnie Sandlan, NUS Scotland’s women’s officer.

The Scottish government has asked the SFC to consider how it might support universities that “are currently less research active but where there is evidence of emerging excellence”. However, the council has said that this guidance will be considered separately from the current review.

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