Augar proposals bad for university research, Lords warn

The House of Lords science and technology select committee said government needed to ensure there was no loss of funding if tuition fees are cut to £7,500

University research could be damaged by the Augar review proposals, a committee of peers has warned.

A report by the House of Lords science and technology select committee concluded “the Augar review did not take a holistic approach to the funding of universities and made no attempt to address the potential impact of its recommends reductions in student fees on the funding of research”.

The report said the UK will not reach its target of investing 2.4% of GDP in research and development by 2027 unless government heeds the warning.

The committee chaired by Lord Patel said that, due to a freeze in Quality Related (QR) funding since 2010, universities were cross-subsidising research funding from other revenue streams. It recommended the government ensure any loss of income incurred by a cut in tuition fees be guaranteed by new grants to ensure the sector was not negatively affected.

Read more: UK universities and Brexit – are we ready to leave?

The report also dismissed the proposal made by the Augar panel that the Office for Students (OfS) be made responsible for awarding teaching grants which it said would “erode the autonomy of universities”.

“We are concerned that the OfS would decide the relative value of different subjects. Given the complex nature of the cross-subsidies universities use to manage their finances, seemingly small disruptions to inputs could have significant unintended consequences for research. We do not believe that the OfS is the right body to make these decisions,” the report concluded.

The peers also suggested the UK government move to ensure the continued UK membership of Horizon Europe post-Brexit to guarantee universities receive European Union research grants.

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