Universities are vital to a successful local and regional economy; many of them are carrying out applied research with business and other stakeholders such as Local Enterprise Partnerships. The Research Excellence Framework funding allocation acts as seed money for many of these universities. For example, the money we have received last time at Staffordshire University has allowed us to lever in EU project funds and to provide staff time to bid successfully for work with companies.
December 2014 provided the announcement of the Research Excellence Framework results for British Universities. What these results demonstrated is that world class research was occurring throughout most of the University sector although often in pockets within a University. The summary for Staffordshire University is here
Research funding in the UK is overly concentrated in two ways:
a. The vast bulk of the money goes to a very small number of Universities, in fact University research funding is the most concentrated research funding in the world. For example, in 2013-2014 the top 9 universities received 51% of research funding, and 87 universities shared just 10% of the funding.
b. An incredible spatial concentration of funding to London and Oxbridge. A further concentration of funding is only likely to exacerbate regional inequalities in the UK.
Decisions on the split for funding will focus on how much is awarded to 3* and how much to 4* units over the next couple of months. We need to see that research rated at 3* receives at least 40% of the allocated budget with the remaining 60% going towards 4* rated research that way world class research will get funded regardless of where it takes place.
Dermot Lynott provides an initial look at the Psychology ref and whether we are getting bang for the buck with some of the most prestigious universities.
Dorothy Bishop has an entry on how the REF exercises over time have led to a divergence in the sector and whether this is desirable.
A wider spread of funding will be best for the UK and best for the regions the Universities serve.