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Research Funding

Volume 407: debated on Thursday 19 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how universities qualify for research funding; what measures are in place to ensure that funding is fairly distributed to smaller universities; and what plans he has to concentrate research funding into a smaller group of universities. [119666]

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) distributes a portion of its block grant to higher education institutions according to the quality of their research as measured by the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), and the volume of research they carry out. This provides equitable funding to institutions of all sizes. The White Paper, "The future of higher education", set out plans to strengthen higher education research by increasing substantially the funding available, providing further support to the best research departments and institutions, promoting collaboration and encouraging and supporting promising departments and emerging subject areas. HEFCE is considering how best to implement the White Paper plans. Some institutions have seen reductions in their research funding for the coming year, typically where most of their research falls below international standards of excellence. However, the Government do not intend to restrict research funding to a particular group of universities. In the longer term funding may be affected by Sir Gareth Roberts' review of research assessment, commissioned by the higher education funding bodies. The report of that review was published for consultation last month ( It recommends a more flexible system of research assessment, including different types of assessment for institutions and departments with different levels of research. As now, HEFCE would decide how to use the assessment results in funding institutions.