THE principal of the University of Edinburgh has hit out at the Scottish Funding Council over a multi-million-pound drop in funding.
Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea poured scorn on the recently announced round of cuts which will see £8 million lost to Edinburgh, despite the university coming top of UK research tables.
With further cuts rising to a total of £14m a year, he believes the decision could have a negative impact on jobs and result in Scotland becoming less competitive on the world stage.
Last December, it was revealed that the university was fourth in the UK in terms of research, behind Oxford, University College London and Cambridge.
Sir Timothy said: “The real-world impact of that research on business, health and society is evident across the breadth of our activities.
“The decision to reduce funding for world-leading research in the University of Edinburgh by £8m next year, with further cuts rising to a total of £14m a year, will cause Scotland to lose an important competitive advantage that delivers jobs and opportunities for our communities and businesses.
“We are a small country which has achieved extraordinary innovation and international impact from research. Now is not the time to reduce investment in Scotland’s future jobs and prospects.”
The funding cut includes the removal of £5m from the global excellence initiative, a two-year Scottish Funding Council (SFC) scheme to boost research at Scotland’s universities.
In response to Sir Timothy’s criticism, the SFC has stressed that the strong showing of Edinburgh and other Scottish universities in the field of research last year highlighted how the initiative had “succeeded in what it was meant to do.”
An SFC spokesman said: “The changes were agreed by the university sector after a consultation and have been well received. The strong performance of all Scottish universities in last year’s research assessment exercise meant effectively that, in funding terms, the peloton caught up with the leaders.”
Responding to the funding allocations, Professor Pete Downes, convener of umbrella body Universities Scotland and principal of the University of Dundee, believes Scotland’s universities “have become victims of their own success.”
He said: “We hope the Scottish Government will be open to talking to us about this, and that something can be done in the next set of spending decisions taken this summer.”