Welcome boost for Research Funding

Research England, the body responsible for funding research and engaging with English universities has secured a package of £8Bn to fund university research. This will offer a welcome boost for research funding projects, and helps to secure the sector in challenging times.

The sums agreed include:

  • An increase of 6.1% in 2022/23 over the previous year
  • Quality Research (QR) funding increased by 10.4%, from £1.789 million to £1,974 million
  • Increase of 13% in the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) to £260m
  • Research with business increased 36% to 114m
  • £100m to support the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF)
  • Sustained funding of £36 million annually to further improve research culture and enhance research conducted in partnership with communities.

Role of Research England

Research England is the body responsible for funding research and engaging with English universities. Their mission is to offer : -

‘…support for innovative industrial developments and high value, strategic and agile formula funding streams such as:

quality-related research funding underpinned by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

support for knowledge exchange via the Higher Education Innovation Fund.'

Funding linked to the REF 2021 outcomes

The most significant component of the award for this year is the QR funding. This rewards individual university success in producing research outcomes submitted as part of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.

Individual research projects contribute to the ranking of their institution, so universities seek to produce research of the highest standard. Individual research submissions are graded according to a rating of 4* or 3*. A formula is applied to give the university its overall ranking in the REF.

Not only does this increase the wealth of new knowledge that is available it also ensures that universities attract high volumes of funding and renowned staff.

The REF is a very valuable indicator of research performance, and the results are broken down by individual project, researchers and provider. We have an article explaining how students can compare universities by rankings and can use the REF in their research subject search.

Research funding in the UK

Higher education research funding is administered by UK Research and Innovation. The organisation is structured around nine councils. Each council is focused on an area of knowledge that can be served by research. The other councils in addition to Research England are:-

  • AHRC - Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • BBSRC - Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
  • EPSRC - Engineering and Physical Sciences
  • ESRC - Economic and Social Research Council
  • Innovate UK - Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency
  • MRC - Medical Research Council
  • NERC - Natural Environment Research Council
  • STFC - Science and Technology Facilities Council

Universities bid each year to secure funding for PhD and research masters projects. Studentships advertised on Postgraduate Studentships include the appropriate funding council in the title of the project.