UCL Research


Statement from Professor David Price on cuts to ODA funding

18 March 2021

Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research), responds to the reduction of Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding for research.

David Price

I know that members of our community engaged with international development research are deeply concerned by the UK government's decision to reduce funds available from Official Development Assistance (ODA), which will have significant implications for research projects – both current and future – funded under ODA programmes, such as the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Since UK Research & Innovation's initial response on 11 March – indicating a £120 million gap between its existing ODA research commitments and its 2021-22 allocation from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy – UCL has been working to understand the implications for our ODA research portfolio, for our UCL researchers conducting ODA projects and for our international partners in low- and middle-income countries.

There has yet been little detail provided of how the cuts will be implemented, and I believe that is, in part, because the funding agencies themselves were shocked by the level of the cuts. UKRI has indicated that reprofiling and reduction of some grants, and termination of others, may be required, while new awards that have not reached the grant award stage will not be initiated. UKRI is not alone in having funded and planned to fund substantial amounts of research using ODA, and we are awaiting further information from it and other funders, including the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Last year we experienced some charities scaling back their research funding due to the impact of the pandemic, but the scale of this cut to ODA-funded research is unprecedented.

We are a university that, through our research and teaching, aims to impact positively on individuals, communities and societies around the world. We do this best when collaborating with partners based in those settings, and who have a strong appreciation of local contexts. Thus we seek to provide the best possible support to researchers intent on delivering such public benefit.

We also recognise the importance of international partnerships, many of which are longstanding, are based on mutual trust, and may be at risk from funding reductions. We will therefore seek to prioritise support for such partnerships, acknowledging that at this point it is not yet clear what means we will have at our disposal.

We will also continue to contribute to sector discussions about how best to advocate for increased ODA funding for research, while assessing the preferred forms of mitigation where a reduction in funding is taking place.

The new Research & Innovation Support (RIS) office is coordinating our analysis and practical responses. The team will be in touch with affected Principal Investigators to provide advice as we seek and receive clarity from funders. In the meantime, if you have insights, suggestions or questions, please email the team.

I know how unsettling this situation is for UCL researchers with ODA funds, and for their international and domestic partners. We are committed to keeping you informed as and when we achieve a greater understanding of the situation. If you have not already subscribed to the UCL Global Research Funding Bulletin, then please do so.

Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research)