HEFCE: Research policy and funding

01 December 2000

The Royal Society welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) report on its review of research policy and funding. Although the Council’s report was concerned with higher education in England, most of the issues raised there and in this response are relevant across the UK.

The Society agrees that for the purpose of determining the Council’s funding, the definition of research at paragraph 47 is satisfactory, and in particular that it should not include advice and other professional activities, routine monitoring and testing, or product development.

The Society reaffirms its strong support for the Dual Support system, and its view that the criterion for distribution of HEFCE research funding should be research excellence. It believes that the current level of selectivity is about right, and provides the dynamism and diversity that is necessary to maintain the vitality of UK university research. It would be concerned if the resources associated with departments rated 3b and 3a were to be decreased significantly in order to protect those rated 5 and 5*.

The purpose of HE Funding Councils’ research funding is to allow institutions to develop their research capabilities within the context of their overall mission, and to contribute to the maintenance of high quality research facilities in the UK. There is a need to provide flexibility to local management to develop their institution’s strengths, with clear understanding of how their success or failure will impact on their future funding.