So much for a small clever country

An article in this week's Times Higher shows that Welsh universities are falling behind their English counterparts in terms of research funding.

According to the academics' trade paper

"Universities in Wales have been left aggrieved by the news that this year's increase in research funding is half that enjoyed by English institutions. Concerns have been raised by individual universities and by their representative body Higher Education Wales (HEW) that last week's grant allocations will leave them struggling to compete.

Whereas research funding for English universities has increased by 8 per cent for the next academic year, their counterparts in Wales received a rise of 4 per cent. The biggest loser was Cardiff University, which got £2.2 million less for research, while the largest percentage increases in research money went to teaching-led institutions such as Swansea Metropolitan University. Teresa Rees, pro vice-chancellor for research at Cardiff, warned that the difference between the settlements would hit Welsh institutions hard. She said: "This is no time to be having a funding gap."

However, that's not the end of it as it would seem that the Assembly and its quango, the Higher Education Funding Council, may be preparing to cut funding even further, thus widening the gap with English institutions still further

"On top of the individual woes of some Welsh institutions, it has emerged this week that the sector's funding allocations may not be as solid as they seem. A caveat in the 2009-10 grant letter says it is possible that funding could change. David Blaney, the HEFCW's director of strategic development, said the clause was linked to "general economic circumstances" and that the sector was being alerted to the "possibility" and not "probability" of any change. Even so, this prospect worried some, who said any change would be a cut in funding.

So much having a clear policy to support the development of a "small clever country" and this in a week where business leaders have called for companies not to abandon training.

Shame that the Assembly Government sees so little merit in supporting the engines of the knowledge-based economy that we will need to get out of recession quickly.

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