Wales to look at less selective policy on research funding

September 12, 2003

The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales is likely to resist following England's move towards greater concentration of research funding, its senior officials have said.

Instead, it may continue to fund almost all Welsh higher education institutions for research in departments with a research assessment exercise score of 3b or higher.

The HEFCW will consider whether to amend its research policy once the consultation on Sir Gareth Roberts' review into the RAE reports later this year.

But while Wales may continue to use the same assessment and rating system as England, it is likely to be less selective in its allocation of resources. Currently, 12 out of 13 higher education institutions in Wales get a share of £61.5 million in research funding, as well as the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, based at the University of Wales.

Ann Hughes, the HEFCW's head of funding and research, said maintaining that position would not mean diluting funding for the top-rated departments in Wales. She said: "We will want to continue to fund high-quality research where it is identified. But our definition of high-quality research might extend beyond that of England's funding regime.

"Maintaining the current regime in Wales is a possibility, but we would not rule out some adjustment. However, we are not inclined to go for a policy of further concentration of funding."

Phil Gummett, the HEFCW's head of higher education, said there was "general concern" in Wales that the trend in England was to push research selectivity to the extreme. Wales was unlikely to follow suit.

"Unlike the position with fees, we can vary our policy on research funding considerably. If we chose to, we could run a completely different system," he said.

There was a strong sense in Wales that one of the distinguishing features of higher education was that it supported research activity. "It is one of the key things that makes it different from other levels in the education system," Professor Gummett said.

Reconfiguration of the sector in Wales, through mergers and partnerships, offered an opportunity to protect that principle, he added.

"It is possible to imagine more and less research-intensive institutions working closer together to secure access to research funding," he said.

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