English universities have been told to resubmit part of their applications for next year's cash allocations following a funding council inquiry. The resubmissions are for returns in the quality related research (QR) category, which accounts for Pounds 600 million of the Pounds 636 million allocated for research.
An audit led by Ewan Page, former vice chancellor of Reading University, found evidence of "very significant differences of interpretation" and "apparently inadvertent double counting" in returns. Institutions have been asked to validate or resubmit their returns by August 15.
The new returns could lead to readjustments in the 1995/96 allocations. While the amounts in question are not necessarily particularly large, the "research activity" component was a key element in allocations as the most significant factor in determining "winners" and "losers" among institutions.
Taken at face value the original returns suggested a 15 per cent increase in research activity over a single year and some spectacular institutional variations - one institution claimed an increase of just over 40 per cent and several made claims close to 20 per cent.
Losers included Manchester University and Imperial College, both of which found themselves in the "safety-net" category of those receiving the minimum 0.5 per cent cash increase in their allocations. There was considerable pressure for a review from the heads of institutions who felt that they had been penalised for a lack of "creativity" in their returns. The audit was set up in response to these concerns.
Martin Harris, vice chancellor of Manchester, said he was delighted that HEFCE had asked for resubmissions: "I am very pleased that they have decided to revisit this matter and look forward to the outcome. There is a very important matter of principle at stake here".