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Government Urged to Change University Research Funding

20 June 2006 @TeessideUni

 

A study commissioned by 35 UK universities suggests that universities like Teesside, Sunderland and Northumbria are significantly better than others at using government funding to lever additional research income from other sources.

But the current system means that those which are most successful at topping-up research income - the modern universities - receive the least government support.

The study published today (June 20, 2006) was undertaken by the Arthur D. Little international firm of consultants. It comes as the future of research funding in the UK's higher education sector is being reviewed by Whitehall.

The study says if the 35 universities in the survey like Sunderland, Teesside and Northumbria received more government research grants it would help boost economic and social regeneration in the British regions.

Elizabeth Robertson, Chair of the Modern Universities Research Group and Dean of the University of Teesside's Graduate Research School, said: "This report reveals what those of us at the sharp end know to be the case - that the work undertaken at universities like Northumbria, Teesside and Sunderland plays a vital role in this region."

Estelle Morris, former Education Secretary and now Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sunderland, said: "Whilst we understand why the Government has, until now, focussed research funding in the more traditional universities, it is now clear that a new approach is called for. Universities like ours are an unexploited resource and we would be missing a trick if we did not encourage and assist them in developing further their research profiles."

Key findings from the report include:

  • the group of 35 are highly effective in attracting significant research contracts from multinational and national industries and from small and medium-sized enterprises
  • they are very successful at attracting additional research contracts from other government agencies and public bodies, thus enabling them to play a key role in public policy development
  • the geographical location of these universities often allows them to play a key role within their local communities.
  • they lever four times as much funding from the European Union as the "research intensive" universities.

Welcoming the report, Professor Graham Henderson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Teesside and a member of the executive of the CMU (Campaigning for Mainstream Universities), which commissioned it, said:

"The report demonstrates the value and impact of research taking place within the modern university sector and draws attention to the diversity and quality of this work.

"Many of the research teams in the 35 universities surveyed operate at levels of international excellence, comparative to the strongest traditional research-intensive institutions

"Teesside's research work in History, for example, gained a top-rated grade 5 in the last nationwide Research Assessment Exercise and today's report predicts that the quality and relevance of research in the modern university sector will continue to rise when the next national Research Assessment Exercise takes place in 2008.

"So we are not only attracting substantial additional income from our research activities, but doing great things with very modest funding for research from the Government, such as supporting important emerging fields like the creative and cultural industries and tourism.

"Overall, this report stresses that research activity within the modern universities in the UK needs to be not just sustained, but increased, for the benefit of the economy and society as a whole."

Notes to editors

The research was commissioned by the following universities: Abertay Dundee, Anglia Ruskin, Bath Spa, Bolton, Bradford, Central England (at Birmingham), Central Lancashire, Coventry, De Montfort, Derby, East London, Glasgow Caledonian, Gloucestershire, Greenwich, Hull, Kingston, Leeds Metropolitan, Liverpool John Moores. London Metropolitan, London South Bank, Luton, Manchester Metropolitan, Middlesex, Northumbria, Paisley, Plymouth, Roehampton, Salford, Southampton Solent, Staffordshire, Sunderland, Teesside, Thames Valley, Westminster and Wolverhampton.

Arthur D. Little is a global management, technology and environmental consulting group serving a wide range of public and private sector clients. The company is one of the world's major consulting firms, with more than 1,000 staff based in 30 offices worldwide.

The report will be launched by the Minister for Higher Education, Bill Rammell, at a reception at the House of Commons at 4pm on 20th June 2006. Journalists wishing to attend should contact info@cmu.ac.uk

The full report is available from info@cmu.ac.uk