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Commonwealth survey highlights research funding disparities


Geographic location and economic status linked with access to funding and support

Universities in Africa and Asia report lower access to funding and research support systems than those in Europe, the Americas and the Pacific region, a survey of Commonwealth institutions has found.

The Association of Commonwealth Universities surveyed 95 universities in 29 countries—20 per cent of the ACU’s membership. The results, published on 14 February, show how institutions in low-income countries commit more of their core income to supporting research, receive less income from industry and win much fewer research grants than those in high-income countries.

“The findings highlight long-standing disparities that continue to shape the wider research and research funding landscape,” William Bramwell, senior research officer at the ACU, said in a statement.

Thirty African institutions responded—more than in any other region. Nearly one in five (17 per cent) reported that they receive no government funding for research whatsoever, starkly contrasting with Europe, where all participating institutions reported that they receive government support.

Both Asia and Africa recorded lower rates of grant applications and awarded grants than the other regions. High-income countries accounted for 88 per cent of research grants applications reported by the participating institutions.

There was also uneven distribution of research support services, with nearly all institutions in high-income countries reporting having access to electronic systems and databases to support grant applications, while less than half of lower income country institutions saying the same.

There were synergies, however. More than half the respondents identified translating research into sustainable outputs, such as socio-economic or policy benefits, as the greatest challenge they faced, and many called for more investment in research impact evaluation and research management.