Russell Group submits comprehensive spending review recommendations

Continued funding for Horizon Europe, no teaching grant cuts, and a deep-tech seed fund are among the proposals laid out by the mission group

The Russell Group has submitted a series of proposals to the government ahead of next month’s comprehensive spending review (CSR), that it says will “will harness the great education and world class research taking place at our universities to create high-value jobs and boost opportunity across the country, while delivering maximum value for every pound of public money”.

Vice-chancellors in England are said to be bracing themselves for considerable cuts to higher education funding when chancellor Rishi Sunak concludes the CSR 2021 alongside an autumn Budget on 27 October.

The Russell Group’s submission to the CSR comes with vows to “deliver maximum value for every pound of public money”, “create high value opportunities through innovation” and “strengthen the pipeline for high-level skills right across the country”.

Among its key recommendations are that government:

  • Guarantee teaching grants on a per student basis “at levels that at least match existing funding” – the Russell Group says it estimates the value of tuition fees and government teaching grant to have fallen by 7.1% since 2018 due to inflation and increases in student numbers, arguing a continued drop “risks not only the high-quality education provided by Russell Group universities but undermines the pipeline of high-skilled recruits needed by employers.”
  • Guarantee the full funding needed for the UK’s participation in Horizon Europe for the duration of the programme “underlining Britain’s reputation as a global actor”
  • Introduce a new deep-tech university seed fund, with a one-off investment of £200m, “targeted at innovative ideas within the Innovation Strategy’s seven priority technology families”, which include clean technologies, robotics, genomics and AI.

 

The submission also says that the government should invest to reach its £22bn target commitment into research and development (R&D) in “an even and consistent way, cumulatively adding £2.37bn extra to the baseline research and innovation budget in each year between 2022/23 and 2024/25” in order to “leverage significantly more private investment and faster”.

It should also increase quality-related (QR) research funding and equivalent streams in the devolved nations by 20% to help universities tackle “longer term challenges or deal with new and emerging issues”, and highlights that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine was partly thanks to QR funding awarded in 2005.

Existing innovation schemes such as the Higher Education Innovation Fund and the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund should be scaled up, the Russell Group says, and a net increase of just under £600m over the three years to 2024/25 could deliver a return of £2.7bn to the UK’s economy and society.

The Russell Group submission also calls for “a multi-year commitment” to the Turing Scheme, and for VAT rules and R&D-related tax credits to be reformed to boost collaboration between business and universities.

Earlier this week, Universities UK published its own CSR submission in which, like the Russell Group, it urged the government to maintain the available spend per student.


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