Universities are rushing to copy Warwick University's prestigious Pounds 10 million research fellowship scheme, launched last year to attract 50 top scholars. Among its imitators are old universities like Leeds and Manchester, but also new ones like Coventry and De Monfort.
Warwick has now appointed 37 research fellows, who are given six-year contracts (double the time of typical Oxbridge research fellowships) and the prospect of permanent positions. The prospect prompted 10,000 inquiries and 45 per cent of the new fellows come from abroad.
Leeds has had 4,000 inquiries and 800 applications from around the world, including eastern Europe, Asia and North America. On offer are 20 fellowships per year for three to five years, intended "to bridge the gap between contract research appointments and permanent academic staff posts". Leeds is allocating Pounds 5 million from central and departmental funds for an initial five-year tranche.
Manchester is running a slightly smaller scheme, making a five-year Pounds 2.5 million investment in its research opportunities initiative. The university has already appointed 15 research fellows, with prospects of more this year.
Coventry, which is spending Pounds 2 million, is recruiting 12 research fellows in technical areas, offering a six-year package worth Pounds 26,000 per year - twice a lecturer's basic starting wage. Bob Pryce, pro-vice chancellor, agrees Coventry was following Warwick, describing its neighbour's initiative as "a very shrewd, smart thing to do".
He said Coventry, in contrast to many teaching-oriented new universities, is "keen to remain in the research business". Money for the fellowships will come from Coventry's profitable enterprises "and will not be siphoned from teaching funds".
De Montfort, which is ready to offer at least 30 six-year research fellowships, has set aside some Pounds 2 million. Pro-vice chancellor Mike Brown said the scheme is the latest initiative in a five-year period of investment in research which has seen the establishment of a Pounds 12 million engineering facility.
He expects the scheme will encourage a brain drain from old universities to the new, pointing out "we have already recruited from Nottingham and Warwick universities because people can see that we are offering new opportunities for development".