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Science capital boosted as BIS gets 6 per cent in cuts

Protection for science and research spending will be maintained in 2015-16 while the capital budget will be increased to £1.1 billion, the chancellor George Osborne announced today.

George Osborne

However, overall savings of 6 per cent will be made in the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills, with funding for student grants hit. Meanwhile, mooted plans to move medical education and research budgets out of BIS have not been implemented.

As expected, science became the focus of Mr Osborne’s spending review speech, with the chancellor announcing a “huge investment” in research capital spending.

“Scientific discovery is first and foremost an expression of the relentless human search to know more about the world but it is also an enormous strength for a modern economy,” he said.

He said that the science resource ring-fence would be maintained in 2015-16 at £4.6 billion – keeping spending at the current level in cash terms. However, the capital budget will be increased in real terms to £1.1 billion, with future rises maintained in line with inflation “until the end of the decade”.

The overall cut of 6 per cent to the BIS budget is less than the 8 per cent cut that was previously being reported, and will amount to around £600 million in non-capital savings.

Times Higher Education previously reported that the government had considered finding come of the cuts by moving spending on medical education and research to the Department of Health. But Mr Osborne said today: “We’re not going to shift medical training and research out of this department, because they’re working well where they are.”

However, Mr Osborne said that there would be savings to student maintenance – “keeping grants, but not increasing them” – and also “the cost of the central department will also be cut further”.

Treasury documents released following the statement also revaled that £100 million in savings will be found by cutting the budget for the National Scholarship Programme from £150 million in 2014-15 to £50 million in 2015-16, when it will be transformed into a postgraduate scheme.

“The Government will refocus the National Scholarship Programme to support postgraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” the document says.

“The £50 million fund will be administered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Hefce will allocate the money competitively to higher education institutions, and will attract additional scholarship funding from the private sector or from the institutions’ own resources.”

Meanwhile, there may be more bad news for universities seeking to attract international students, with Mr Osborne announcing that some visa fees would be increased.

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