The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee published their report Science research funding in universities on 8 August. The report looked at current challenges to university research funding, the potential impact of the recommendations made by the Augar Review and the implications of Brexit on UK university research. The committee also heard evidence on the difficulties associated with cross-subsidies used by universities in managing their finances. The full report can be read here and its key recommendations are outlined below:
- The deficit in Quality Related (QR)* funding since 2010 should be addressed and it must rise by the rate of inflation. The Government should commit to including QR funding as part of the spending review.
- If the Government chooses to follow recommendations in the Augur Review to reduce the cap on tuition fees, it must also implement an increase to teaching grants to cover the loss of tuition fees, to ensure universities are no worse off than currently.
- The Government should associate the UK with ‘Horizon Europe’ as soon as possible.
- The Government should seek to match the level of funding the UK received from the EU for research, which is currently greater than the UK’s contribution. Public funding following Brexit should make sure to support areas, such as discovery research and scientific facilities, which EU funding currently supports.
- The Government must ensure post-Brexit immigration laws do not hinder the ability of UK universities to recruit and retain the staff they require, including technicians earning below the proposed salary threshold of £30,000.
Commenting on the report, Professor Sir Pete Downes, President of the Biochemical Society, said:
“The recommendations in this report reflect the importance of universities to UK research and innovation. We are pleased to see consideration of the balance of funding directed towards research infrastructure, blue-skies and challenge-directed research which will be key to the sustainability of UK university research and to reaching the current government target of spending 2.4% of GDP on R&D by 2020.
We agree that seeking association with ‘Horizon Europe’ is a priority, and Government confirmation of this intention would provide researchers with much-needed stability. We also welcome the report’s recognition of the importance of international mobility for UK science. The Biochemical Society supports the Committee’s final recommendation for the Government to communicate with the EU and worldwide that the UK is committed to research collaboration and maintaining and expanding research networks beyond Brexit. The international perception of the UK as fostering an environment for impactful world-class research is key to maintaining its global position as a leader in science.”
*Government funding which often supports vital research infrastructure in universities