Fury over funding cut for Edinburgh University

Sir Timothy O'Shea hit out at the funding cuts despite Edinburgh University's record. Picture: Robert Perry

Sir Timothy O'Shea hit out at the funding cuts despite Edinburgh University's record. Picture: Robert Perry

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THE principal of the University of Edinburgh has hit out at the Scottish Funding Council (SFC)over a multi-million pound drop in funding.

Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea has poured scorn on the recently announced round of awards, which sees an £8 million cut for Edinburgh despite it coming top of UK research tables.

With further cuts rising to a total of £14m a year, he believes the decision could have a negative impact on jobs and result in Scotland becoming less competitive on the world stage.

Last December, it was revealed by The Scotsman that the university now sits fourth in the UK in terms of research behind Oxford, University College London and Cambridge.

He said: “The real-world impact of that research on business, health and society is evident across the breadth of our activities.

“The decision to reduce funding for world-leading research in the University of Edinburgh by £8m next year with further cuts rising to a total of £14m a year will cause Scotland to lose an important competitive advantage that delivers jobs and opportunities for our communities and businesses.

“We are a small country which has achieved extraordinary innovation and international impact from research. Now is not the time to reduce investment in Scotland’s future jobs and prospects.”

The funding cut includes the removal of £5m from the global excellence initiative, a two-year SFC scheme to boost research at Scotland’s universities.

In response to Professor O’Shea’s criticism, the SFC has stressed that universities’ strong showing in the field of research last year highlighted how the initiative had “succeeded in what it was meant to do”.

An SFC spokesman said: “The other £3m is partly due to a new way of allocating our main research grant. The changes were agreed by the university sector after a consultation and have been well received. The remaining part is due to the strong performance of all Scottish universities in last year’s research assessment exercise which meant effectively that, in funding terms, the peloton caught up with the leaders.”

The SFC said the allocations were in addition to a £120m investment in eight innovation centres to improve links between education and industry.

Responding to the funding allocations, Professor Pete Downes, convener of Universities Scotland and University of Dundee principal, believes Scotland’s universities “have become victims of their own success”.

He said: “It is incredibly disheartening to go from such a high in December and a feeling of great pride when our universities were confirmed as world-class and as delivering outstanding impact for Scotland through their research, to today’s funding allocations which confirm that many will lose out and there is no scope to build on that success.

“We hope the Scottish Government will be open to talking to us about this and that something can be done in the next set of spending decisions taken this summer.”

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