UK ‘must reconsider research cuts’

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Universities UK has written to the government seeking urgent clarity on the future of funding for UK science and research.

Although the government’s Integrated Review reaffirms its aim to secure the UK’s position as a global science superpower, the announcement coincides with reports that the government is preparing to significantly cut the budget for research. This comes soon after a confirmed £120 million shortfall for research funded from the overseas development budget, which has forced universities across the country to abandon current research projects with international partners.

Writing to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Julia Buckingham, president of Universities UK, said: ‘Universities are increasingly alarmed by reports that the Treasury has not made funding available to support the UK’s association to Horizon Europe.

‘If this position is maintained, it will amount to an effective cut in excess of £1 billion, equivalent to cutting more than 18,000 full-time academic research posts and weakening the UK’s attractiveness as a destination for talented researchers and private and foreign investment. It will also undermine the credibility of the government’s expressed ambitions to provide global scientific leadership, set out in today’s Integrated Review.’

The letter concludes by urging the Prime Minister to intervene in discussions between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and HM Treasury, to prevent this outcome.

Other points made in the letter include: 

  • A £1 billion reduction in domestic research funding is roughly equivalent to the total research and innovation budgets of the Medical Research Council and Science and Technology Facilities Council combined;
  • It would also lead to a further reduction of up to £1.6 billion in private R&D investment which would have been stimulated through public investment; and
  • The cut comes at a time when the UK’s largest international competitors – including the United States and China – are increasing their investment in science.