Welsh universities have been asked to consider wide-ranging changes in the way their research is funded, writes Tony Tysome.
Proposals from funding chiefs could mean tighter controls on postgraduate research training, more rewards for departments winning research council grants, and the creation of a consolidated "third leg" of funding for research, development, training and consultancy work.
A consultation paper from the Welsh Higher Education Funding Council asks universities to comment on whether tougher conditions should be attached to funding for postgraduate research training. The paper says that postgraduate training is "recognised as one of the most important functions of the research base".
Departments might be required to show that they comply with minimum requirements for facilities and arrangements for the supervision of research training before qualifying for earmarked postgraduate training money.
While the paper proposes continuing the bias towards formula funding for research, it suggests a new element might be introduced to reward departments that attract research council grants.
It says: "It might be argued that such a move would constitute double counting, income on income from the other side of the dual support system. However, the concern to see an increased level of research council grant income to the sector is a fundamental one with investment from this source having the potential to make a significant impact."
The paper proposes converging funding streams for research and development, training and consultancy services, and collaborative programmes jointly funded with the Welsh Development Agency, into a consolidated third leg of research funding.