HC Deb 08 November 1990 vol 180 cc27-8W
Mr. Gill

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the responsibilities of research councils for funding research in institutions of higher education.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

In January this year my Department issued a consultation paper proposing a change in the way in which research supported by the research councils in universities, polytechnics and other higher education institutions is funded. In the light of the responses to that paper and other consultation, I have decided that there should be a change in the respective responsibilities of the councils and the institutions for funding such research, with effect from 1 August 1992.

I have today written to the chairmen of the Advisory Board for the Research Councils, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the Committee of Directors of Polytechnics, the Standing Conference of Principals and the Universities and Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Councils telling them of my decision. The full text of my letter to the chairman of the Advisory Board for the Research Councils is as follows:

  • Sir David Phillips FRS
  • Chairman
  • Advisory Board for the Research Councils
  • Elizabeth House
  • London SE1 7PH / 8 November 1990

Dear Sir David

Changes in the Balance of the Dual Support System

The Department issued a consultation paper in January proposing an adjustment to the boundary of funding responsibilities between the Research Councils and Higher Education Institutions. It was proposed that, from the beginning of the 1991–92 academic year, the Research Councils should become responsible for meeting all the costs of the projects they fund, apart from academic salaries and premises costs. The purpose of the change was to clarify the respective responsibilities of the Councils and the institutions for supporting Council sponsored research.

The Board was consulted further in September on the detailed implications of the proposal, in the light of the responses, to the January paper. I am most grateful for its advice. In the light of that, and of other responses to consultation, I have concluded that clarification of the funding boundary is necessary and that to achieve it there should be a transfer of funding responsibilites. I accept the Board's advice that more time is needed if we are to have a smooth and effective transfer, and I have therefore decided that the new arrangements should be introduced from the start of the 1992–93 academic year.

Under the new arrangements the Research Councils will meet the full costs of research they support, apart from the costs associated with the employment of permanent academic staff of the institution and general premises costs; these will continue to be the responsibility of the institution. Research Council grants will cover the full direct costs of projects (apart from the costs of academic staff), and will include a contribution to the indirect costs of the institution through a standard percentage addition to direct costs.

The arrangements will apply from 1 August 1992 to newly approved Research Council funded research in Higher Education Institutions, and (subject to transitional provisions) to projects in progress at that date.

I should like to take this opportunity, through the Board, to invite the Research Councils to work with the representatives of the higher education institutions and with the Department to draw up a detailed specification of the new boundary, to make their own assessments of the costs of the additional responsiblities it would entail, and to put in place new grant application arrangements in time for an orderly and effective transfer of responsibilities in 1992. I am also inviting the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, in consultation with the Department and the Research Councils to undertake further work on research costs and in particular on the percentage addition to be used in dertermining the Councils' contribution to indirect costs.

I should be grateful for a report on the Councils' work by next April, when I will need to be satisfied that good progress has been made in drawing up the detailed specification of the boundary and in putting in place new grant application arrangements.

The Government's public expenditure plans for education and science which I am announcing separately today allow for our current best estimate that the cost of the additional responsibilities transferring to the Research Councils might amount to about £100 million in a full year. I will consider next year, in the light of the further work I am now requesting and of changes in the volume and cost of Research Council sponsored work in the interim, whether any further adjustment is necessary.

Yours sincerely,

K. Clarke

Kenneth Clarke