Cambridge research funding nosedives

Madeleine Bell - News Reporter 22 November 2012

Cambridge suffered a blow this week as the size of its research grants were cut considerably.

Data compiled by Times Higher Education showed that out of the ten highest grant receiving universities, seven have seen their income fall in the year 2011-12 compared with 2010-11.

Although the number of successful applications increased, the cumulative incomes are much smaller than in previous years. Surprisingly, Cambridge University suffered the biggest fall within the top 10: its research council funding fell by 34% from £85.2 million in 2010-11 to £56.2 million in 2011-12.

However, fewer applications (371 compared with 414) meant that the institution’s success rate actually increased, rising from 33% in 2010-11 to 37% in 2011-12. Oxford’s success rate was 34% for the year, but culminated in a higher total of grants at £63.5 million.

The overall amount, which the Research Council UK offers, totalled just under £1 billion and was split across 183 institutions and universities. In total 8817 applications were made across the board, and 2621 accepted, raising the average success rate from 27% last year to 30%.

The top recipient of research council cash, Imperial College London, received £76.7 million in 2011-12, down from £94.5 million the previous academic year.

However there have been some surprising winners from this year’s system, with Reading and the University of East Anglia coming 8th and 14th respectively for Arts and Humanities funding, ahead of Cambridge who came 15th.

Speaking to TCS, a spokesman for the University said: “The narrative accompanying the figures points to a general downward trend across Research Council UK success rates.”

“The value of activations in a given year is a snapshot and should not be considered in isolation – a small number of large awards will distort the figures considerably.”

She also added that there are other awards which do not appear in the statistics (subcontracting and awards transferred to Cambridge, of which there were several large transfers in the 11/12 year).

“Most of our large value applications in 11/12 have submission dates that make it likely that they will be considered in EPSRC’s current financial year.”

The Guardian states, that as a proportion of its economy, the UK already spends less public money on higher education than any other western European country aside from Italy.

Madeleine Bell – News Reporter