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PBRF funding results "perverse"

Media Release

26 April 2004

PBRF funding results "perverse"

The changes in research funding to universities in response to their Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF) results have been "perverse" says the Association of University Staff (AUS).

"The PBRF appears to reward high-cost subjects and the ability to attract external research income more than it rewards high quality scores. It may also reflect a bias against research students in the new funding regime," said AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg, commenting on the results announced last week by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC).

For example, Lincoln University will receive the second-highest percentage increase in funding among the seven universities despite being the second lowest ranked university by quality score. Yet Canterbury received the third-lowest increase in funding (less than the increase in the total PBRF) despite being second-highest ranked.

In Canterbury's case this is apparently because it is particularly strong in the number of research students it attracts. Since the funding being phased out is based on student numbers, it lost more funding than it gained.

This raises the question: will the new regime discourage universities from attracting research students?

Otago, which came fourth in the rankings, received the highest percentage increase, and Auckland, top ranked, received third-highest percentage increase.

"The scheme appears to reward high-cost subjects and the ability to attract external research income - which is not available to researchers in many subject areas - more than it rewards high quality scores", said Dr Rosenberg. "Is that what its designers intended?"

[Note: the information on which this release is based is in Table 8.4 on page 80 of the Tertiary Education Commission's report on the PBRF results.]


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