What would the impact of forthcoming cuts in science funding on British universities look like if they go ahead?
Research funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is allocated using a star system – the highest quality projects are given a four star rating, right down to no stars at all for the very worst. In the last funding round, 2010 – 2011, all two star research and above was awarded funding.
Two star projects currently make up around 45% of the work carried out in UK institutions, so when Business Secretary Vince Cable talks about 54% of research being ‘world-class’, the remaining 46% – which is in the firing line – probably refers to the two star level.
But how would losing two star funding affect the research grants that universities receive from HEFCE? The impact it would have on the coffers of the 20 UK universities which currently receive the most money from HEFCE is very variable, as shown in the graph above.
Hardest hit would be the University of Bristol, which would lose a whopping 18% of its research budget, closely followed by the University of Leicester at 16.5%. Oxford and Cambridge universities would both stand to lose just over 5% of their funding, the least affected of the 20.
Even cutting all two star research funding would only be equivalent to a 10% cut in HEFCE’s budget. If the actual cuts were more savage, some three star research would almost certainly vanish too.
An assessment on the Research Fortnight blog explores the possible effects of a few different scenarios, including Cable’s cuts which it suggests would mean 30 departments losing funding altogether, while small and new universities would be hit particularly hard.
Data supplied by HEFCE