Reviewing the Spending Review

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You probably have heard that the spending review has finally been announced and it is very pleasing to see that the science research budget has been frozen. It is not the greatest of results.

As I mentioned in a previous post, fellow scientist here in the UK started the Science is Vital campaign and I am very pleased to say that it seems to have had some effect and here are some facts about the campaign which were announced by email by Jenny Rohn:

  • 33,000 names on a signature delivered to Downing Street, gathered in only 3 weeks
  • 2000+ (police estimate) scientists and their supporters demonstrating outside the Treasury
  • 100s of articles, radio interviews and TV films in national and international media
  • a 45-minute meeting with Science Minister David Willetts to discuss the issues
  • a question raised in Prime Minister’s Questions
  • a packed lobby in Parliament, including Prof. Adrian Smith, sent by Vince Cable to report back
  • 110 MPs from all main parties signing our Early Day Motion

So, what are some of the key announcements made in the spending review? Here is a summary:

  • From 2011/12 to 2014/15 there will be overall resource savings of 25 per cent from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) budget. This includes 40 per cent savings from higher education and an average 16 per cent savings from the other areas of the BIS budget.
  • This works out as a cut in overall BIS expenditure from £18.6bn in 2010/11 to 14.6bn in 2014/15. The higher education budget will fall from £7.1bn to 4.2bn, a £2.9bn reduction by 2014/15.
  • Lord Browne’s report into University Funding and Student Finance has been largely accepted by the Government. The review states that “subject to Parliamentary consent, universities will be able to increase graduate contributions supported by government loans, with a broadly offsetting reduction in the teaching grant, from the 2012/13 Academic Year.” In other words, we expect a large cut to the HEFCE Teaching Grant to be replaced by higher graduate contributions – it is expected that David Willetts will reveal the detail of this proposal in his speech tomorrow.
  • On a more positive note, the science budget will be maintained in cash terms over the Spending Review period at £4.6bn a year – which works out as a real terms cut of just under 10% over four years.
  • There will be reform of Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) “to incentivise universities to increase commercial interaction between the research base and business.”
  • A new National Scholarship fund of £150m a year by 2014/15 will be established to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds and protect those on the lowest incomes in higher education.
  • The Government is to provide £200M a year by 2014/15 to support manufacturing and business development, with a focus on supporting potential high growth companies and the commercialisation of technologies.
  • There will be an increase in funding of £250m a year by 2014/15 on new adult apprenticeships. Money for this scheme is coming from the train to gain budget, which is being abolished.
  • The Department of Health will increase spending on health research in real terms. Within this, additional funding will be made available to support the translation of research into practical applications, including the development of new medicines and therapies.
  • The state pension age will be raised to 66 in 2020 and £1.8bn will be saved from public sector pensions through higher individual contributions. Details of which, will be announced after the full review into pensions by Lord Hutton is published in the Spring.