June 17, 2016

Sharper Incentives: proposed changes and rules for Research Block Grants – IRU submission

The essence of the 2015 Watt Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements proposals for research block grants is that universities should be responsible for the use of funds against the two prime purposes of supporting the universities’ research output and supporting research students.

The consultation paper ‘Sharper Incentives for engagement: New research block grant arrangements for universities’ poses many options that would diminish the simplification the Watt report proposes, particularly for the new Research Training Program.  Many of the options raised hold back from giving universities the responsibility to use the resources provided in the way they consider best to generate future research outcomes, with further funding dependent on success.

The IRU approach on the new programs’ requirements is to oppose rules that only express conservative good practice and to support those integral to achieving key policy aims for the two programs. The areas where we agree that full university flexibility for the Research Training Program should be moderated by other considerations are:

  • to maintain the focus on research degree completions by limiting the period of support a student can receive;
  • to ensure that student stipends ensure both a minimum reasonable level of support and also avoid the appearance of unnecessarily generous levels of support for some individuals.

On program reporting, the IRU approach is that it should be structured around the collection of relevant research outputs through an agreed regular national data collection with minimal collection of expenditure uses.  The draft guidelines also require amendments.

Read full submission attached (6 pages).