A policy briefing published today (8 September) by MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, of which the University of Cumbria is a member, argues that a new approach is required for research funding in universities.
The briefing asks the question: ‘Is science and research funding in higher education meeting the challenges of the 21st century?’ and finds that most universities are short-changed by a lack of dynamism in the way that research funding is allocated. Under the current model, research recognised internationally and of national significance goes unfunded.
Across England the disparities in research funding are stark: in the North West 10 modern universities (67% of the universities in the region) share 10% of the funding (£11m of a total £109m).
The funding system in its current form hinders regional growth and opportunities for postgraduate students, the briefing warns.
The conclusion states: “Research and innovation are key to economic growth. There are now strong arguments to look again at the principles which underpin research funding.”
The briefing outlines a number of recommendations to redress the balance, including:
- increased investment in science, innovation and research, from 1.7% to 2.4% of GDP, bringing the UK in line with the OECD average
- a new fund for translational research to support innovation and economic growth across the country
- a link between baseline research funding and student numbers at all universities with degree awarding powers.
University of Cumbria Director of Research Professor Diane Cox said:
“With the government’s new focus on regional strategy, this policy paper makes it crystal clear that a re-think as to how research funding is distributed among universities is long overdue.
"Universities have long been recognised as being at the heart of delivering the research and innovation agenda. The University of Cumbria’s mission is to enhance the lives of individuals, fostering the development of the communities to which we belong and being a catalyst for positive change. Our high quality research is practical and applied, delivering tangible benefit to practitioners, policy makers, stakeholders, communities and businesses. Research is a fundamental part of our vision to be a leading force for regional growth.
"Re-balancing the research funding landscape in the north west region is vital if the government is to realise its vision of boosting productivity and growing local economies around the country.”