Oxford research funding could fall £8.5m

Oxford University’s research budget is set to be slashed, as newer universities receive more government money.

Oxford might receive as much as £8.5m less over the next seven years, despite 70% of the University’s research judged to be world class or world leading, studies published in the Times Higher Educational supplement found.

Many newer universities, including several ex-polytechnics, are now rated highly enough to compete for research funding at the highest level, according to the latest Research Assessment Exercise, which determines how much funding universities get.

The University Press Office refused to comment on speculation that that Oxford’s funding would be cut, calling the predictions “purely speculative as no-one knows yet how HEFCE will calculate the funding.”

A spokesperson stated that the University was “pleased that the results reflected the world-class depth and breadth of Oxford’s research” and added that the University is “happy at this stage simply to wait and see what the funding outcome is”.

However, they stressed their hope that “HEFCE will ensure that its financial allocations will properly reflect the quality and the volume of the research assessed.”

Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor John Hood applauded the University’s achievement in gaining a higher overall number of researchers rated 3* or 4* than any other institution. He called the outcome “a genuine reflection of the breadth and depth of Oxford’s research activity.”

Other traditionally research-oriented institutions, including the London School of Economics and Imperial College London, are also expected to lose out as the money is redistributed.

Cambridge is predicted to lose a similar sum to Oxford, despite narrowly beating it to top the tables with 71% of its research rated world class. A relatively poor showing by Imperial, meanwhile, particularly in the field of medicine, has seen some sources suggest that it could receive as much as a third less funding.

Among the new universities to have made surprising gains were the University of Central Lancashire, which was ranked higher than Oxford for research in Linguistics, and De Montfort University, a former polytechnic in Leicestershire, which ranked equally with Cambridge for research in the field of English literature.

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New government guidelines advise that funding should be spread more evenly. After the last RAE, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) gave 82% of its available money to just 29 universities.

The rate at which more money is given to higher rated departments is expected to be less this year, meaning that larger amounts of funding will go to 2* and 3* researchers, often in universities with less of a tradition in research.