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The announcement of the science and research funding allocations for 2015 to 2016 brings not only a welcome end to budgeting uncertainty, but an even more welcome end to the recent series of ‘flat cash’ settlements.

While spending squeezes remain across many public programmes, this allocation sees an uplift in spending, from the now-familiar figure of £4.58bn to the new total of £4.69bn. It signals in practice what has been said in recent Government speeches and is re-iterated in the announcement:

“World class research plays a key role in economic growth and the continued improvement to health and wellbeing of society. At a time of tight control over public spending, the Government continues to offer strong support for science and research.” 

This is a view that the Society has championed and we hope this marks the beginning of a reinvigorated and incremental investment strategy.

Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, said: “The science community needs this boost in funding and confidence to address many inflation-eroded areas of research and skills development. We welcome the Government’s continued recognition of the importance of science, and these are practical steps necessary to achieve its potential.”

In a brief document the Department for Business Innovation and Skills sets out its allocation to the research councils, academies and others covering both recurrent spending and capital investment.

Yesterday the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) received their annual grant letter from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). This letter provides HEFCE with the higher education funding allocations for 2014-15 and gives indicative allocations for 2015-16. The letter delivered a total cut of £125m to higher education compared to indicative allocations made last year.

£45m has been cut from the recurrent grant for teaching, although £20m has been added to teaching capital funding. The letter states that savings should 'protect as far as possible high cost subjects (including STEM)' and references the £200m investment in STEM teaching capital over the next two years to ensure cutting edge teaching facilities.  

The Society welcomes the Government’s commitment to protecting STEM subjects which are costly to deliver. It is important that this commitment is fulfilled so that reductions to teaching funding allocations do not have a negative impact on the quality of the STEM student experience.  

The letter also shows that funding for disadvantaged students has been impacted, with removal of the £37m Access to Learning Fund (ALF) and a £100m cut from the National Scholarship Programme. The letter described bringing together funding for the ALF and the Student Opportunity Fund, as well as refocusing the NSF into collaborative outreach work with OFFA and to provide an additional one-off £50m to 'help remove barriers to participation in postgraduate education' in 2015-16.