New salvo on university funding

The principal of Abertay University has stepped up his outspoken campaign for the new Scottish universities to get a more equitable share of research funding and has linked it with criticism of the Government's plan for "universities for industry".

Bernard King says that Scotland has its own industrial universities, the former central institutions like Abertay, which emerged from Dundee Institute of Technology. "What is now required is not the creation of new industrial universities but investment in those with a proven track record to ensure equity of provision for students at all Scotland's universities."

Writing in Beacon, the university's newsletter, Professor King said it was not right for universities teaching 35 per cent of students to receive only 3 per cent of research funds. Comparable universities in England will this year get about 7 per cent of research money from the Higher Education Funding Council. Doubling funds in Scotland to match those south of the border would cost only Pounds 3 million.

Unfair discrimination in research affects teaching, Professor King says. "Although all universities are paid the same amount per student for teaching, the older universities receive vastly more funds for research infrastructure (accommodation, equipment, facilities and so on). Since a library or laboratory part-funded by research grant is also available for teaching students for years to come, this disparity has a direct impact on the facilities supporting student learning."

The "impoverishment" is of universities which are largely Scottish and frequently local, whereas extra funds go to institutions professing to be "both internationally and locally focused".

Professor King says he is not against selectivity in research funding. When the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council gave commercially linked finance, the new universities, competing with the best everywhere, won 22 per cent of funds, of which 4 per cent went to Abertay.

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