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Falling short

The government’s support for research so far belies its ambitions

The encouraging progress in the quest for a Covid-19 vaccine over the past fortnight has led politicians across the world, not least in the UK, to rush to the praise of scientists. But at the same time, the Westminster government has unleashed another disappointment on a research sector struggling with the pandemic’s impact on its funding.

The detail of the government’s financial support deal for university research, set out on 6 November, suggests that the package will have only limited impact on the challenges faced by the sector. The offering, labelled Sustaining University Research Expertise, is now being greeted with much greater scepticism than the headline plans outlined in June, which signalled the government’s intention to offer low-interest loans to mitigate universities’ losses from international students’ tuition fees.

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