How will the Budget affect Higher Education?

Wednesday’s Budget contained relatively few new measures for Higher Education, but did include confirmation of part-time undergraduate loans, doctoral student loans and 1,000 new PhD places.

Research and Development

On research and development, £250 million will be invested to build the pipeline of high-skilled research talent, including £90 million for an additional 1,000 PhD places aligned to the industrial strategy, with 85% in STEM disciplines and 40% directly helping to strengthen collaboration between business and academia through industrial partnerships. A further £160 million will be set aside for new fellowships for early and mid-career researchers in areas aligned to the industrial strategy.

£100 million will be invested over the next four years to attract leading researchers to the UK. This will include £50 million from the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF), ring-fenced for fellowship programmes to attract global talent, and over £50 million from the Global Challenges Research Fund to support fellowships that attract researchers to the UK from emerging research powerhouses like India, China, Brazil and Mexico.

An initial investment of £270 million in 2017-18 has been announced to support the first wave of challenges funded from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. This will include investment in the development, design and manufacture of batteries that will power the next generation of electric vehicles, artificial intelligence and robotics systems, and new medicine manufacturing technologies.


Universities are to be asked to help sponsor new free schools including specialist maths schools. A White Paper on schools will be published in the coming weeks but the Government will continue to work towards opening 500 new free schools by 2020 and will extend the free schools programme with investment of £320 million in this Parliament to help fund up to 140 schools, including independent-led, faith, selective, university-led and specialist maths schools.

“T Levels” are expected to be introduced in 2019/20 to raise the status of technical education and create sector-specific routes to employment. A further £500m will be invested in 16-19 education.

The Government reconfirmed the announcement made in the 2016 Budget that doctoral loans of up to £25,000 will be made available from 2018/19, with a repayment rate of 6% for those earning over £21,000. The Chancellor also reaffirmed the Government’s pledge to make maintenance loans available to part-time students.

Russell Group

Commenting on the Spring Budget, Acting Director of the Russell Group, Dr Tim Bradshaw, said:

“Supporting science and research is an investment in growth and jobs. The spending priorities outlined by the Chancellor – with the focus on research and investment in people – will lead to new discoveries, new products and services, new companies and a stronger UK economy.

“The commitment to invest £90m in grants to support an additional 1000 PhD places will help secure a pipeline of research talent for the UK. Along with research funding for key science and technology challenge areas, this is a good start to taking forward the new industrial strategy.

“Moves to attract the best international talent to the UK are also welcome. International staff and students are fundamental to the work of our world-leading universities and our ability to attract the best from around the world pays huge dividends to the UK economy and society. This investment sends a positive signal about the Government’s long-term intentions ahead of Article 50 being triggered.

“We now look forward to receiving further details of exactly how this funding will be allocated. In particular, we would welcome a commitment for an increased allocation to quality related ‘QR’ funding. This provides universities with the greatest flexibility to explore new opportunities – such as in AI and advanced medical technologies – and address emerging challenges in the most efficient and effective way.”

The full Budget 2017 document is available here:

Analysis from Wonkhe is available here:

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