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Postgraduate Education

Question for Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

UIN 262245, tabled on 10 June 2019

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what discussions has he had with (a) university groups and (b) UK Research and Innovation on the sustainability of current funding for PHD qualifications.

Answered on

13 June 2019

I regularly meet with universities, university groups and UKRI to discuss a number of issues. The government’s target to reach a total of 2.4% of GDP invested in R&D by 2027 will mean increasing the numbers of highly trained people working in research and innovation, including PhD graduates. In 2017/18, UKRI’s direct funding was supporting around 22,000 studentships, about 22% of the UK total. In addition, Research England’s QR Research Degree Programme (RDP) supervision fund provides more than £250 million of annual funding contributing to the costs that universities face in supervising research degree programmes.

In many cases, this investment is also made in partnership, leveraging further support from higher education institutions and industry to maximise the impact from the public investment. For example, in 2019, UKRI invested £100m in 16 new Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) in Artificial Intelligence, based at 14 UK universities with 300 partners. Project partners are investing £78 million in cash or in-kind contributions and partner universities are committing a further £23 million, resulting in an overall investment of more than £200 million.

Given the large commitments partner universities make to these investments, we are mindful of the need to maintain sustainability. UKRI is currently developing a plan for the delivery of the government’s 2.4% target with stakeholders to ensure that we not only achieve these ambitious targets but do so in a manner that is sustainable and ensure long-term impact.

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