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Economy Economy

Build up universities’ investment funds

Last updated: 05:03pm 8 December 2019

…while they have a number of growing investment funds specialising in spin-outs, we have more to do to replicate the success of similar university funds in the United States. To fix that, we will work to build up the investment funds of our universities across the UK.”
“We want larger, aggregated funds to increase significantly the amounts invested in and by universities.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.20

Our verdict

University funding comes from a variety of sources –  tuition fees, government, research – but a proportion is raised from investments. Some of those investments are in “spin-outs”, commercial ventures based on technologies or ideas that arise from research done by a university. The amount a university has available for any investments is determined by the overall state of its finances, or how wealthy it is. There is huge variation in the wealth of UK universities, with Oxford and Cambridge outstripping all the rest by an enormous margin.

This policy is a promise to build up university investment funds more broadly, enabling the development of specialised spin-out investment funds. That requires improved funding for universities more generally.

The most significant development for university funding under this government has been the Augar Review, published in May 2019, which makes proposals “addressing higher education funding”.

A report in June 2019 by Universities UK looking at the impact of the Augar Review found that universities which focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) should benefit from its recommendations, but some other universities may be pushed into deficit, meaning decreased investment funds for them.

Even with specific regard to research funding, the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee found:

“the Augar Review did not did not take a holistic approach to the funding of universities and made no attempt to assess the potential impact…on the funding of research”

In light of uncertainty about the potential impact of the recommendations of the government’s review, we think the attempt to “build up the investment funds of our universities” remains ‘in progress’. We’ll be tracking the implementation of the recommendations to see whether the funding situation improves. Follow this policy for updates.

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