Government must urgently reconsider research budget cuts, urges UUK

In a letter to the prime minister, UUK seeks clarity on funding for science and research

Universities UK (UUK) has today written to the government seeking urgent clarity on the future of funding for UK science and research.

Although the government’s Integrated Review – published today – reaffirms its aim to secure the UK’s position as a global science superpower, the announcement coincides with reports that the government is preparing to significantly cut the budget for research.

If this position is maintained, it will amount to an effective cut in excess of £1 billion, equivalent to cutting more than 18,000 full-time academic research posts – Julia Buckingham, president, UUK

This comes hard on the heels of a confirmed £120 million shortfall for research funded from the overseas development budget (ODA), which has forced universities across the country to abandon current research projects with international partners.

Just yesterday, University Business reported on an open letter signed by well over 2,000 demanding the government revoke its decision to cut ODA research funds – citing such cuts as a “threat to the sustainability and credibility of UK research leadership on global challenges”.

In a letter to the prime minister today, professor Julia Buckingham, president, Universities UK said: “…[universities] are increasingly alarmed by reports that the Treasury has not made funding available to support the UK’s association to Horizon Europe.

“If this position is maintained, it will amount to an effective cut in excess of £1 billion, equivalent to cutting more than 18,000 full-time academic research posts and weakening the UK’s attractiveness as a destination for talented researchers and private and foreign investment.

“It will also undermine the credibility of the government’s expressed ambitions to provide global scientific leadership, set out in today’s Integrated Review.”

Taken together, these cuts put our global reputation as a science superpower at risk – Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive, the Russell Group

Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group, said: “The research community welcomed the news when government successfully secured association to Horizon Europe as part of its trade deal with the EU. However, if that achievement is not followed through with the necessary additional investment, it could leave a shortfall of up to £1 billion this year in existing R&D budgets.

“That reduction would not only deal a serious blow to UK science and research, but it will hobble the government’s ambitions for a swift, innovation fuelled recovery.

Taken together, these cuts put our global reputation as a science superpower at risk – Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive, the Russell Group

“This comes on top of £120m of cuts already announced for ODA-funded research in the last few days, undermining years of work to establish science diplomacy links across the globe with research that changes lives on the ground.

“Taken together, these cuts put our global reputation as a science superpower at risk. We are calling on the government to provide urgent clarity on its plans to fund Horizon Europe and on its commitment to core research and innovation investment in the UK.”

Call for intervention

The UUK letter concludes by urging the prime minister to intervene in discussions between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and HM Treasury, to prevent this outcome.

The letter additionally states:

  • A £1 billion reduction in domestic research funding is roughly equivalent to the total research and innovation budgets of the Medical Research Council and Science and Technology Facilities Council combined.
  • It would also lead to a further reduction of up to £1.6 billion in private R&D investment which would have been stimulated through public investment.
  • The cut comes at a time when the UK’s largest international competitors – including the United States and China – are currently ramping up their investment in science.

 


Further reading on the ODA research cuts: International development research grants will be reduced or terminated, UKRI confirm


 

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