University leaders accused of not liking the facts?

In the Herald today:

University bosses have accused ministers of threatening Scottish research excellence after it emerged top institutions face swingeing grant reductions of up to 10 per cent. Growing pressure on Nicola Sturgeon’s government follows publication of research allocations for the 2022/23 academic year, with Aberdeen University set to see its money slashed by nearly £2 million. The Glasgow School of Art is bracing for a decrease of £122,000.

Further down we read:

The news at the end of that statement tells me that the opening sentence is a lie. I’ve been through 4 research assessment exercises and I know that the system rewards increases in high quality research output with increased funding and punishes quite ruthlessly a perceived decline in that. You can argue all day about the criteria used to judge what is excellent but the basis for the funding after assessment is fair.

I’m guessing Aberdeen and GSA did less well than they hoped and now want to blame someone else.


13 thoughts on “University leaders accused of not liking the facts?

  1. What I found funny – peculiar or haha I leave up to you – was that the Herald in this article referred to the Universities’ ‘research excellence’ but had not reported the results of the recent findings/rankings as far as I am aware. If they did report on them they did not give them any prominence which would be in line with their ‘Scotland is rubbish’ approach to journalism. So now they have to allude to the excellence in order to get their SNPbad story.

    This may leave readers scratching their heads saying ‘Excellence? What excellence? I had not heard about this. I thought Scottish Education was rubbish/failing under the SNP’

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Uni’s? Forget them.
    Boris is FREEEEEEE!!
    The Sheeple have spoken, and the Cult of Boris is safe for years to come.
    There will be a PARTY, dude.
    Bring a bottle, and bring a friend.
    That friend could be Starwars or Cauld-Ham, now they have combined with the Tories to rule in wee bits of Auld Scotia (or North Briton as they prefer).
    The British Nationalist Party is BORN.

    “One Boris to rule them all,
    One Boris to mislead them,
    One Boris to drink till dawn,
    and let the B’stards fine him”!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. John, you and I both know – only TOO well – what University Principals are like. There were two key points in this that surprised me not at all. One was that this funding was a disaster from start to finish, until that is you get to the bit where it tells us Napier got a 10% rise. How many others? Were they not “ancient” (or worthy) either?
    The other thing is that there is another linked article in the Herald, written by guess who? Yep, Sally Mapstone who, for the benefit of those who wisely dont take too much interest in this, is Principal of St Andrews which, guess what, go cut!.
    Even if it was all large dollops of dosh all round, they would “welcome the increases, but regret that the government had not gone further ….”. It has to be appreciated that the demands of Uni Principals are even greater than the average ASLEF official and are probably limitless.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The other point to make is that any reduction in funding from the Scottish Government is small beer compared to the loss of funding from the various EU bodies and loss of participation in joint EU research projects due to Brexit. This dwarves anything lost from the SG and will seriously impact on the international standing of our Universities.

    A recent Tweet on the subject note don’t think the link to the FT article works but you get the picture

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I will leave a quick note here to help those who find themselves unable to read the body text of articles behind the subscription paywall.

      Oftew the text is freely available on the internet, you just have to know to find it.

      I suggest the following simple methodology.

      1) Has is already been archived on the wayback machine?


      1. 2) Is it available as ‘cached content’ on your ordinary search engine
        e.g. searchx DuckDuckGo or Startpage ?

        3) use a meta search tool to search for an available block of text like
        “UK left out in the cold from flagship science programme”

        like DuckDuckGo “Bangs”

        or Qwant QWICK commands:

        In this case I found matching text immediately on Bing by using Search (Non-US)


        Liked by 1 person

  5. The data on Scottish Funding Council (SFC) grants to universities are published in a very transparent, accessible way. The basis of their allocation is also explained. It’s easy also to compare the current levels of award with historic ones. Here are some facts that place The Herald’s headline in proper context.

    1) Total value of SFC Grants for Teaching, Research and Innovation:
    2021-22 = £1,029,057,003
    2022-23 = £1,040,952,798
    Change: a 1.2% increase.

    Specifically on total grants for Research and Innovation:
    2020-21 = £289,973,000
    2021-22 = £294,376,000
    2022-23 = £299,086,000.
    Change: up 1.6% on last year

    Also, 11 out of 19 institutions received an increase in their Research and Innovation grant.

    The University of Aberdeen has indeed had a c. £2 million reduction, down to £21,906,000. This is by far the largest drop of any institution. By contrast, the University of Edinburgh, Scotland’s pre-eminent research-intensive university, has seen an increase of c. £6m. The University of Glasgow has an increase of c. £1.2m.

    Specifically on the element of Research and Innovation funding termed the ‘Research Excellence Grant’, the total for the sector has risen by c.£6.5m. Whilst Aberdeen has seen a fall, the University of Edinburgh has had an increase of £6.8m, the University of Glasgow a £2m increase.

    What is the the argument here? That the Scottish Government – notwithstanding its restricted budget – should take funding from other areas, from health, or social security, or early years education, or from mitigating Westminster’s unwanted actions? Should it do this in order to ensure that no university loses out even if relatively its level of ‘excellence’ is dropping when compared to peers in Scotland?

    ‘Threatening Scottish research excellence’? Well over the top! Notwithstanding the great contributions universities make, there has long been a strong whiff of ‘entitlement’ apparent in parts of this sector!

    Source: Table 6 and 7 –

    Liked by 3 people

  6. There are of course two types of University in Scotland – the “ancient” – Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews, Strathtech (sorry, old habits die hard), Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling, Heriot Watt as well as the Conservatoire and the Glasgow School of Art. The last few are somewhat less ancient, but still regarded as “proper” universities compared to the other lot, the pretendy, puny uni universities that used to be Central Institutions (broadly what in England was referred to as a Poly) – UWS, Glasgow Caley, Napier, Abertay, Robert Gordons, Queen Margaret,
    With that distinction in mind what do we find? We find that the institutions who have lost out are Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow School of Art, Heriot Watt, St Andrews and Stirling. All the rest have some sort of increase, though this can be marginal – eg Robert Gordons get all of 0.1%. UWS, well known to John and I get all of 1.2%, though I will bet you would have to listen hard to hear someone from their management say “what a good funding package”. It’s never enough, and to make matters worse, it’s the elite Unis – the ones who have failed to address the SG’s agenda of widening access, taking kids from “sink” schools etc who have lost out. You can just imagine someone from Scumbag High going to St Andrews can’t you? But the rules dont apply to them (just as Boris thought they didnt apply to him).
    Btw, if you are looking at the data, I am using the furthest right column SFC Grants for Teaching, Research and Innovation, and Estimated Tuition Fee Income for Funded Places (Table 7) which seems to me a more comprehensive measure of the funds being granted, but the losers and winners remain the same, just by different margins.


  7. I’ve just read on the Universities Scotland website an article written by Professor Sally Mapstone Principal and Vice-Chancellor at the University of St Andrews and Vice Convener of Universities Scotland. It seems it was this that was published in The Herald published. I am prompted to comment as the article is at best a misrepresentation by omission, at worst in parts disingenuous.


    The Professor writes: ‘… this week Scottish Government research funding has been CUT FOR A RANGE of Scottish universities, all of them producing research of the very highest quality.’ (my emphasis)

    As an aside, it’s a well known journalistic sleight of hand device: carefully select the subset of parameters in order to frame the message you want to give!

    I’d like to see evidence this situation is at all exceptionaI. Perhaps someone with more sector knowledge can advise.

    Over the lengthy period of time that formula-based grants have been awarded to institutions based on research ‘quality’ by the funding council in Scotland – or by councils in other parts of the UK – has there never been an institution experiencing a cut in this core grant funding? Has this never before happened to an institution despite it undertaking (some) world class research? Is the institution’s award not based on assessment of all its research activity – not just its (possibly limited in scale) ‘world class’ bits? If funding is reduced, perhaps the institution concerned may for a year (just) have to focus its available resource a little more narrowly. And it’s not as if the SFC is the only source of research funding.

    The Professor gives examples of research activity in institutions of high value to Scotland. She mentions research undertaken by Glasgow Caledonian, Glasgow, Stirling and Dundee universities. But the first two have actually SEEN AN INCREASE IN their Research and Innovation grant for 2022-23. The Professor (surprisingly?) fails to mention the c.£6m increase in the Research and Innovation grant to Scotland’s pre-eminent research university, namely Edinburgh.

    The Professor refers to specific areas of research undertaken at certain institutions. She does not indicate how these were funded – by public funds from Scottish or UK government sources, by EU funds, by charity funds, by industry funds, a mix? I suspect most will not have been reliant on annual Scottish Government funding but the text is composed rather to imply this is so. It is likely that the funding for the research areas mentioned will have been in large part funded through competitive bidding.

    The Professor writes: ‘The UK Government is increasing its investment in research in institutions in England, with a commitment to spending 2.4% of GDP on research and development by 2027.’

    Note the shift in the metric used here to imply comparison with Scotland. We are not told whether this UK Government figure is actually referring to a formulae-based research grant from Research England (the nearest equivalent to the SFC) or to the aggregate of UK government funding sources: does it include capital and well as recurrent funding? And to the extent there is a formula-base grant element in this UK figure, it would be disingenuous to imply that once Research England allocates it grants based on current research quality assessments that there will not also be ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ year on year there, just as there are in Scotland .

    The Professor writes: ‘… in Scotland eight universities are facing immediate cuts in Scottish Government research funding, with four major research-intensive universities facing cuts of £1m or more in 2022/23 …’

    From the Scottish Funding Council’s figures it appears that whilst eight universities are facing cuts to their Research & Innovation grant for 2022-23, as best as I can see ONLY THREE NOT FOUR ‘facing cuts of £1m or more in 2022/23’ – Aberdeen, Dundee and Heriot-Watt. (If I have this wrong I apologise in advance.) And note, the Professor fails to mention that THREE institutions are having increases of OVER £1m in this grant for 2022-23!

    Did I miss the Professor mentioning that the 2022-23 SFC awards for Teaching, for Research & Innovation (and including the Research Excellence Grant ) are all increasing in 2022-23?

    Liked by 1 person

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