Former polytechnics are pretty good at research. That's the message coming from today's edition of The Times, which reports that the government are currently reviewing University spending based upon the results of December's Research Assessment Exercise.
The RAE rated many more universities' research as "World Leading" or "Internationally Excellent" than expected. If the government chooses to split the £1.5 billion budget based on how much of each university's research falls into these two categories - as suggested by Research Fortnight - the consultancy firm involved in the decision - then it could mean huge budget cuts for Russell Group Universities.
Imperial College faces losing £15 million per year - around 30% of its current Government funding for research. Meanwhile, Oxford and Cambridge are expected to lose around £8.5 million of research funding each. Overall, it is estimated that the Russell Group would see a total cut of around £140 million.
The universities that will benefit the most are the former polytechnics, who have seen their research ratings rise dramatically. The biggest winners, according to Research Fortnight, are The University of Wolverhampton. Wolverhampton are expected to see an increase in funding from £138,000 to almost £2.4 million each year, in what The Times describes as the beginning of a "class war" between institutions.
Supporters of the plans, due to be fully announced in March, say that spreading funding will allow more Universities to increase their level of quality research, increasing the amount of quality research being carried out in Britain. Wendy Piatt, executive director of the Russell Group, was more sceptical. She suggested that the plans would damage the quality of research carried out here, saying, "it is essential we bolster Britain?s critical mass of research excellence, rather than try to spread limited cash more thinly. These sentiments were supported by Anna Fazackerley of the think tank Policy Exchange who suggested that the spreading of government funding could lead to "mediocrity" amongst research carried out at British institutions.