£10m to alleviate research institution charity funding shortfall

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Three leading research institutions hit by a loss of charity funding as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will receive £10 million in additional funding.

The institutions who will receive a share of the £10 million funding from Research England’s Specialist Institutions Fund are:

  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
  • The Institute of Cancer Research, London.

The specialist nature of these institutions has left them hit by a loss of charity funding due to the impact of COVID-19.

This funding will help them to continue their groundbreaking and lifesaving work, which includes research into cancer and a wide range of the world’s most serious tropical diseases.

Supporting specialist institutions

Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation, has allocated £10 million to these specialist institutions to address a reduction in charity funding caused by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This funding was reallocated from the £80 million Specialist Institution Fund launched by the Chancellor in the 2020 spring budget.

To be eligible to receive this reallocated funding, institutions needed to:

  • be specialist institutions
  • receive more than 10% of their total income from eligible charity funding.

Continuing world class research

Executive Chair of Research England David Sweeney said,

These institutions undertake vital research into diseases of global importance, including cancer, COVID-19 and tropical diseases that must continue to be supported to save lives around the world.

Given the importance of these institutions in tackling research agendas, we have reallocated this funding to ensure these operations are not unduly jeopardized by a reduction in charity funding.

Further information

The funding will be awarded in proportion to the institutions’ Quality-related Research (QR) charity support funding. It is ‘whole institution’ funding awarded in proportion to the income they receive from charities for research which has been awarded through peer review and open competition.

The specific criteria for a specialist institution, as defined in the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)’s 2016 review, are that they concentrate more than 60% of their activity in either:

Why are specialist institutions being targeted?

In the spring 2020 budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced an £80 million fund, across five years, for specialist institutions. This recognised their excellence and global reach. Due to their small scales specialist providers are particularly exposed to financial risk as they have limited opportunity to cross-subsidise between revenue streams.

How are specialist institutions defined?

Specialist institutions are defined in HEFCE’s 2016 review of specialist institution funding. This specified that at least 60% of the institution’s activity is concentrated in either:

  • one HESA student cost centre
  • one HESA academic staff cost centre.

This provides the most recent definition that has been consulted on by the sector.

Why are all specialist institutions not receiving an allocation of the fund?

Losses of incomes due to the COVID pandemic have not been distributed evenly across all specialist institutions. Research England received advice from BEIS that the Specialist Institution Fund should be targeted to those providers most exposed to loss of charity funding. It is anticipated that in future years funding will be available to a wider group of specialist institutions.

How have providers with high exposure to charity losses been identified?

Research England has used the latest Office for Students Annual Financial Return, from academic year 2018-19, to calculate the percentage of the total income that is drawn from eligible charity funding. Eligible charity funding is research income, including from general research studentships, awarded through open competition and peer review from UK, EU and non-EU charities.

Providers with 10% or more of their total income drawn from eligible research income from charities were deemed to have a high exposure to charity losses. The Institute of Cancer Research, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, were identified as a cluster of providers with 10% or more of their total income drawn from eligible charity funding.

What are the conditions of funding?

The funding has been allocated as additional QR charity support funding. This is an unhypothecated funding stream, which should be used in accordance with Research England’s terms and conditions (PDF, 243KB) .

What are the future plans for the Specialist Institution Fund?

Research England is developing plans for future years of the Specialist Institution Fund, including a review of the definition of specialist institutions. Research England will consult on these plans in due course.

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