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University research budgets held flat

13 Apr 2018

Comment from CaSE Director Dr Sarah Main on Research England Quality Related research funding announcement.

Research England has today published a letter to university vice chancellors informing them of the budget for 2018-19.

Commenting on the announcement, CaSE Executive Director Dr Sarah Main said:

“This funding [mainstream QR] is the engine of discovery and innovation at universities. It allows ideas to germinate, to succeed and to fail, producing the winners that are taken on for further development. At a time when the Government is investing heavily in the industrial strategy, it is disappointing that it has not taken this opportunity to increase support for the research that drives discovery. 

This budget is for ‘Quality Related’ (QR) research funding. The primary element of the budget, termed ‘mainstream QR’, is allocated to universities based on the excellence of their research, measured by the Research Excellence Framework exercise conducted every four years. Other elements include funds for universities to support PhD training, engagement with businesses and charities, and activities to address global challenges.

While there are welcome increases in support for these other elements, ‘mainstream QR’ is being held flat. The letter states:

  1. The budget for mainstream quality-related research (QR), together with its London weighting element and excluding GCRF, will be maintained in cash terms in 2018-19 at a total of £1,050 million.

CaSE Executive Director, Dr Sarah Main said: 

“The Research Excellence Framework, on which the funding is allocated, is a robust, competitive and closely scrutinised exercise which incentivises universities to use QR funds highly effectively. This should give Government every confidence in investing in it further.

The UK research system offers modes of funding that support challenge-led to discovery research. Setting researchers’ sights on societal challenges is important, but it is not a mode that can be used to support the whole research base. So, alongside challenges, it will be important to ensure that the QR mode of funding discovery research keeps pace, so that the bounds of discovery are set wide and the flow of new ideas emerging can drive innovation and progress.”


  1. CaSE is the leading independent advocate for science and engineering. Find out more at
  2. The letter published by Research England can be found at:
  3. CaSE’s analysis of the budget announced today can be found at: