UK Govt is starving Wales of higher education funding, Senedd told
Let there be “no doubt” Mr Drakeford informed the Senedd this week, “that Wales itself is being starved of the funding” that has supported the higher education sector in the past, “by the deliberate decision of the Conservative Government in London.”
The European Union funding for Research and Innovation in this sector will shortly come to an abrupt end. At the same time, Members of the Senedd were informed, Welsh universities are being forced to compete for a shrinking pot of funding from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
Launched in April 2018, UKRI is a non-departmental public body of the UK Government which directs research and innovation funding in higher education.
Mr Drakeford told the Senedd: “It is for UKRI to demonstrate that the initials ‘UK’ mean something in its title. The funds that it has at its disposal—and they are significant—need to be spent in all parts of the United Kingdom.
“But, with a UK Government that has re-centralised money to the centre (and) changed the rules of research funding, it is for them to demonstrate that they are serious about investing in the research capacity of institutions in all parts of the UK.”
In the last round of European Union funding the Welsh Government was able to invest £380 million in research and in higher education in Wales.
However, that funding now “disappears entirely from Wales, placing 1,000 jobs in the research sector at risk,” Mr Drakeford said, echoing warnings recently given by four heads of Welsh universities to Welsh MPs.
On 24 May Nation.Cymru reported that Welsh university bosses told Westminster’s Welsh Affairs Select Committee that they face massive job losses and a brain drain of academic talent.
They said this was because the UK Government has reneged on its promise to fully replace European Union (EU) funding.
Plans for an advanced technology research centre in Sealand, Flintshire are being hampered by uncertainties within UK
Government about which one of its own departments is in charge of making decisions on funding, the Senedd was also told this week.
Mr Drakeford said that whilst Welsh Government is, “making some progress in our negotiations with the UK Government over that plan” it continues to be a struggle.
“The critical emerging technologies that will be taken forward when that centre is established have now been agreed—three priority areas: cyber-security, software engineering, and radio frequency technologies.”
In its last autumn statement, the UK Government committed £10 million to taking that plan forward. Since then, Mr Drakeford added, “It has been a bit of a struggle to extract from the UK Government a sense of the terms on which that funding will be drawn down, the timescales against which that funding is to be made available, and even which department is in charge of making those decisions.
“Is it the Ministry of Defence, which is meant to be the lead department, or is it in fact the Treasury, who are holding the purse strings?
“So, while the prospect of the Sealand centre is exciting, we are committed to it, I hope the UK Government is as committed as they were in the autumn, and, if they are, then they need to speed up the decision making so that we can get on and make that centre a reality.”
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