Response to the Secretary of State's funding letter 2009-10

22 January 2009

The Director-General of The Russell Group of Universities, which represents the United Kingdom’s twenty leading research led universities, Dr Wendy Piatt, commented:

“The Russell Group welcomes the Secretary of State’s acknowledgment that ‘high levels of funding for those universities with the largest volume of world-class research needs to be maintained.’ We are also reassured by John Denham’s recognition of the ‘high cost and national importance of ‘STEM’ subjects’.”

“We have always stressed that excellence needs to be on a grand scale to guarantee prosperity for UK plc and quality of life for us all. Britain will not be strengthened by diluting renowned world-class centres – particularly at a time when income streams are under threat, costs are increasing and international competition is escalating.”

“More than 60% of all Four Star rated research is taking place in Russell Group Universities, which represent just 12% of the sector and our performance in RAE 2008 exceeded even the success we achieved in 2001. World-class universities, with their heavy concentration of brainpower, established excellence, and the sheer numbers and facilities to achieve global impact, are best placed to attract investment in innovation by leading global companies. We need this investment to flow to the United Kingdom, and we have to ensure that Britain retains world-class universities who are international partners of choice. The government has acknowledged that these partnerships have a vital role in addressing the world’s major challenges – energy security, the environment, fighting disease, and delivering economic and social well-being.”

“Only universities with global prestige will secure essential collaboration with companies and with world-class universities in other countries. Only the truly top flight institutions will attract and keep the international pioneers in their fields – experts who can develop life saving treatments; scientists and engineers who will deliver world-changing technologies; and scholars and analysts who can enrich societies and cultures. At the moment we are outperformed only by the United States, but countries around the world are concentrating their resources into a small number of high quality institutions in an effort to catch us up. We need to be cautious that funding decisions won’t be making their task any easier, and the Secretary of State has made this risk very clear.”

“In addition to their global collaborations with the world’s leading centres, Russell Group universities have established a wide range of academic and strategic partnerships with universities across the UK sector and we would be happy to respond to the Secretary of State’s request that we consider how to promote more of this collaboration with smaller institutions.”

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