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Universities urge UK Government to reconsider cuts to ODA funded research

Academics and representatives from universities across Scotland and the UK are alarmed by cuts to ODA funded research. Throughout March, thousands have mobilised to urge the UK Government to reconsider through a petition and open letters.

Before the UK Government launched its Integrated Review, many competitively funded research projects were already stymied by a £120M gap in their funding as a result of Official Development Assistance (ODA) cuts. These projects were tackling problems across the world, so thousands of researchers have signed two open letters demanding an immediate reversal before trust is broken, progress is stalled and early research careers placed on hold.

Further to this, more than 10,000 people have signed a petition that urges the UK Government to reconsider its decision to significantly reduce funding for global health research and development. They say the decision to suspend the commitment to invest 0.7 per cent of GNI on ODA must be subject to full Parliamentary scrutiny.

Many gains in the fight against COVID-19 are from scientists whose jobs are now threatened by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) budget cuts. The termination of ongoing studies will undermine years of investment, and affect the health of the most vulnerable globally. Jobs will be lost in the UK and overseas, and there will be a severe impact on the capacity to train future scientists. To abandon research on global health issues undermines the blueprint of a ‘Global Britain’ and will have a devastating impact on UK science.

Professor Alastair Ager, Director at the Institute for Global Health and Development at Queen Margaret University said:

“The proposed cuts to research underpinning international development strategy – far in excess of what would be an proportionate reduction in the face of falling Gross National Income due to COVID – threaten not just the evidence-base to guide strategic action in addressing the challenges of climate change, pandemic disease and escalating global insecurity.

“They undermine relationships established with partners across the world over many years in establishing mutually beneficial collaboration. For a government keen to demonstrate that expenditure on aid reflects national interest, this signals the agenda of ‘Little Britain’ not the stated ambition of a Global Britain.”

Daniel Haydon, Professor of Population Ecology & Epidemiology and Director of the University of Glasgow’s Glasgow Centre for International Development said:

“We know, now more than ever, that our challenges are global and pressing, and we know they can only be addressed through international partnership.  We also know that the position of the UK in the global research agenda depends on these partnerships, both now and in the future. The cuts to on-going programs are particularly inexplicable, providing minimal savings while inflicting maximal damage on research, our partnerships and our global reputation.

“The research cuts – all the more cruel for their imposition during a global pandemic – pull the foundations out from beneath our most valued international partnerships.  This, as the Director of the Wellcome Trust Sir Jeremy Farrar has observed, is ‘a tragic start to the ambitions of “global Britain” ‘. At the University of Glasgow we will continue to advocate through all possible channels for the reversal of these cuts and the protection of our valuable international partnerships.”

How are the cuts impacting your work?

Our colleagues at Bond are looking to compile information on how recent aid cuts have affected organisations and projects funded by the FCDO. Relevant information might include which projects have been cut and by how much, timescales, potential impacts on the communities the programme supports, how supportive have the FCDO been through the process, how much notice has been given to implement the cuts, and any personal stories.

You will also need to let Bond know if you’re happy for them to use your information; possible uses are to give Bond and its membership information (held in confidence) to indicate the scale and depth of cuts, to share it with members of the UK Parliament to provide evidence for the campaign to stop the cut to 0.5%, and/or as part of public media work highlighting the damage being done by the cuts.

Bond have agreed to receive info on this issue from any Alliance member, even if they are not a member of Bond themselves.

Please email Abigael Baldoumas at or Helen Rumford at (copying in to give your input on all or some of the questions above.

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