Higher education research policy

An aim of the Department is to develop and sustain a higher education research sector that holds a strong position within the UK and beyond and makes a major contribution to economic and social well-being.

Responsibilities of Higher Education (HE) Research Policy Branch

HE Research Policy Branch is responsible for the formulation, development, and oversight of the implementation of higher education research and knowledge exchange policy and funding in accordance with Northern Ireland’s (NI) needs.

The branch provides core funding for these two important aspects of our universities’ work, manages the NI element of two international research programmes, and oversees promotion of NI participation in European research funding programme, Horizon 2020.

Research funding

The Department provides research funding for the Northern Ireland universities through a range of mechanisms. The majority of year on year or recurrent research funding is distributed by reference to quality as assessed by performance in the most recent research assessment exercise, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014. This is known as Quality-related Research (QR) funding and is used to cover the essential costs necessary to carry out research.

The Department provides capital funding for research through the Higher Education Research Capital (HERC) fund.

The universities also apply for funding to cover the direct costs of specific research projects from the Research Councils, along with other funders such as industry, charities, government departments and the European Union.

There are thus two main kinds of higher education research funding in Northern Ireland: that are provided by the Department for essential infrastructure costs and the funds made available for specific projects by the Research Councils and others. This is known as the Dual Support System.

The research activity of the Northern Ireland universities is a vital ingredient in the development of the future economy in Northern Ireland.

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