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LibDems' research plan

The research selectivity exercise should be scrapped and replaced with a new share-the-wealth formula for research funding, suggests Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman.

A big proportion of the hundreds of millions of pounds distributed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England on the basis of research ratings should instead be allocated more evenly in support of teaching and teaching-related research, Mr Foster told the Parliamentary University Group.

The rest of the money could be ploughed into the research councils to increase the number and range of projects they fund, and into other more general support areas such as student main-tenance.

Mr Foster floated his radical scheme in an effort to address what he saw as serious inequities in the current research selectivity formula. He condemned the research rating system for producing an imbalance in the sector between an elite group of old universities which received the bulk of the money, and the rest which had to make do with sometimes "bizarre" allocations of as little as Pounds 27. Private money for research tended to follow public sector investment.

"It seems to me that the present system is setting up some big problems for the future if we believe there is any link at all between the quality of teaching and research," he said.

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