Decline in real-terms funding for UK business school research despite record year for research income

  • Key research report highlights sixth year-on-year increase for funding, but economic headwinds undermine real-term financial value.
  • Three-quarters of funding from UK sources as proportionate European funding continues to fall.


14 July 2023: UK business schools attracted research funding of £84.3 million in the latest reporting year of 2021/22, marking the sixth year in a row of funding increases and a record high for income received for business school research.

Yet, although the figure represents a nominal increase in funding of 5% over the previous year, in real terms, after adjusting for inflation, it amounts to a 4% decrease. Over the longer-term, research income for UK business schools is also down by 4% compared to ten years ago in 2011/12.

The figures are revealed in the Chartered Association of Business Schools (Chartered ABS) 2023 edition of its report on research income for UK business schools.

In contrast, there was a 21% real term increase in total university research funding over the same period.

The report’s findings are based on the latest data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and reviews funding levels for Business & Management and the overall UK university sector over multiple time frames, offering analysis over both the short and long-term.

UK business schools again received increased funding from the UK Research Councils, continuing an unbroken trend since 2017/18, with the annual increase being above the rate of inflation.

Funding from UK and EU industry and UK charities also grew in real-terms relative to 2020/21.

Decreases in real terms were seen from most other sources of research funding. Funding from the EU recorded a very marginal nominal increase in the last year but continues to fall as a proportion of funding across all sources with UK business schools’ reliance on domestic sources of funding, especially the Research Councils, has increased significantly since 2019/20.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Professor Robert MacIntosh, Chair of the Chartered ABS and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Business and Law at Northumbria University said; “These figures underline the continued success story of the UK’s world-leading business schools.  The ongoing increase in funding that they are attracting stands testimony to the quality of their work and the value they add to our university sector and the UK economy.

“That said, the impact of challenging economic headwinds is leaving our business schools, in real terms, worse off. It is evident that our schools of business and management are doing more research, securing more funding and delivering more impact despite this economic context, which remains challenging.

“The shift we’re seeing in funding sources is also notable. Although funding from Europe remains an important part of the mix it is notable that three quarters of research funding comes from UK sources, no doubt due to the protracted process of committing to continued UK participation in EU research programmes.

“Pressures also continue from income derived from core undergraduate fees, which have flatlined since 2017. Worryingly, the real success story of recruiting international students is to be potentially damaged by a change in Government policy on the rights of those students to bring close family with them. Chartered ABS is calling on the Government to reverse that decision before it comes into force in January 2024.

“In all we’re seeing a triple whammy of challenges aligning for our business schools – economic, through high inflation, systemic, through falling undergraduate funding, and politically through Government visa policy. We are being asked to do more with less which puts at risk one of the UK’s most successful global experts – our world class business and management education - and the contributions we make to the sustainability of university operations more widely.”

This year’s report contains a new analysis on the concentration of research funding across institutions in Business & Management compared to other Social Science fields and a selection of STEM fields. It also contains details of active Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) involving UK business schools. The KTPs demonstrate the value of business schools’ engagements with businesses and society both nationally and within their local communities.

The report also contains analysis on research funding by regions, mission groups, and schools, and comparisons with other subject areas.


The full 2023 Research Income Report can be downloaded here.