Press release

MillionPlus calls for new approach to research funding

08 Sep 2016

A policy briefing published today by MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, argues that a new approach is required for research funding in universities.

The briefing asks the question: ‘Is science and research funding in higher education meeting the challenges of the 21st century?’ and finds that most universities are short-changed by a lack of dynamism in the way that research funding is allocated. Under the current model, research recognised internationally and of national significance goes unfunded.

The funding system in its current form hurts competition and hinders opportunities for postgraduate students, the briefing warns.

The conclusion states: “Research and innovation are key to economic growth. There are now strong arguments to look again at the principles which underpin research funding.”

Across England the disparities in research funding are stark: in the North West 10 modern universities (67% of the region’s total) share 10% of the funding (£11m of a total £109m); in the North East 60% of the universities share 9% of the funding.

Almost half the universities in Yorkshire currently share 6% of funding and in the East of England 45% of universities share just 4% of the funding.

Meanwhile in London, 13% of the universities receive 70% of the funding made available by taxpayers for research in the capital’s universities.

The briefing outlines a number of recommendations to redress the balance, including:

  • increased investment in science, innovation and research, from 1.7% to 2.4% of GDP, bringing the UK in line with the OECD average
  • a new fund for translational research to support innovation and economic growth across the country
  • a link between baseline research funding and student numbers at all universities with degree awarding powers.

Professor Dave Phoenix, Chair of MillionPlus and Vice-Chancellor of London South Bank University, said:

“With the government’s new focus on regional strategy, this research makes it crystal clear that a re-think as to how research funding is distributed among universities is long overdue.

“Universities have long been recognised as being at the heart of delivering the research and innovation agenda so the level of hyper-concentration of funding in a small number of institutions in London and the regions cannot be good for future productivity and growth. The fact that 64% of English universities share 10% of research funding is an indicator of a huge lack of investment in staff and infrastructure that is holding back innovation in the regions and the UK as a whole.

“Even before the UK voted to leave the EU there was a pressing need for change. Re-balancing the research funding landscape in regions such as the North East, Yorkshire and Humber and the East and West Midlands is vital if the government is to realise its vision to boost productivity outside the South East.

“The additional challenge of Brexit means it is imperative the Chancellor of the Exchequer exploits the opportunities that will come with the Autumn Statement and the formation of UK Research and Innovation to turn the page and introduce new funding streams for research that will ensure that Britain is much better placed to meet the global challenges of the 21st century.”


Notes to editors

  1. MillionPlus is the Association for Modern Universities. More information can be found at
  2. Modern universities: key facts
  3. For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact Dan Blows on 020 7717 1658 or email
  4. The full report is attached to this email and will also be available on the MillionPlus website from 8 September

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