UK’s Research at Risk Due to Budget Cuts - Thousands of Researchers Might Lose Their Jobs

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The University of Cambridge has criticized the government’s approach to potentially cut funds over £1 billion for the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in order to use that money to sponsor the country’s Associate Status to the Horizon Europe Programme 2021-2027 adopted last week.

According to an opinion shared by Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Stephen J Toope, and the University of Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor, Louise Richardson, this decision would affect the UK’s economy by jeopardizing 18,000 researchers’ jobs as Universities UK had estimated, Erudera.com informs.

The opinion published on the University of Cambridge’s official site also warns the government that researchers might leave for good. 

“Once our highly trained young researchers leave our universities, they will not come back, and once they leave the country, they will not return,” the opinion reads.

Although the universities consider themselves an ally of the government to reach its goals for a “Global Britain,” which is the country’s attempt to provide real-world benefits through research, the government might cut the funds for UKRI, affecting the UK’s Education economy, which holds four out of 20 top institutions in the world.

By cutting £120 million out of the UKRI budget, the government risks putting at halt research on global-effect activities such as researching malaria and infectious diseases with pandemic potential, enhancing food security, reducing violence against children, improving maternal health, and building renewable energy sources.

Although the universities claim to be “delighted” that the government secures Associate Status at the EU’s Horizon program, they consider this achievement a threat to universities’ own funds.

“The cost of participation in Horizon may be taken from the UKRI budget. If UKRI, the Government body responsible for awarding research grants, is left with a shortfall of £1 billion, the consequences for British science and innovation will be nothing short of calamitous,” Vice-chancellors Troope and Richardson write.

The Vice-chancellors representing Cambridge and Oxford University appeal to the Treasury and Government to not cut support for the research base and to not fund Horizon Europe with UKRI’s funds.

“Our research universities have created a national research and innovation system that is the envy of the world. Our R&D activity can be one of the best routes to ‘building back better’ from the economic ravages wrought by the pandemic, and with Government support, we can be at the center of that great national effort,” the opinion further reads.

The Horizon Europe program, a research and innovation program adopted by the European Council, has set the budget for €95.5 Billion. The UK will as well participate in the program with the only exception of the EIC Fund.

UKRI has commented before on the matter, warning Official Development Assistance (ODA) that the new budget of  £120 million for this year would affect UK universities mostly.

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