Summary Report for 2011-12
The report that follows is a shortened version of the Annual Report that the Trust produces for the University and for Trinity College.
As a charity administered for the general benefit of the University, the Trust is regulated by the University on behalf of HEFCE, in accordance with the provisions of the Charities Act 2006. The Director is Professor Jon Parry of Pembroke College and the Chairman of Trustees is Professor Robert Mair, a Professor in the Department of Engineering and former Master of Jesus College. He succeeded Professor Nigel Weiss of Clare College on 1 September 2012. Nigel has given many years of service to the Trust, including six as Chairman, and we have all benefited enormously from his wisdom, common sense, intellectual curiosity, empathy and unfailing conscientiousness.
This year we have also said farewell to Martin Rees and to Michael Proctor, who were Trustees ex officio as Master and Vice-Master of Trinity College for eight and six years respectively, and whose advice on matters academic and practical has been immensely helpful throughout that time. The new Master, Sir Greg Winter, was already a Trustee. The body of Trustees has been strengthened further by the new Vice-Master of Trinity, David McKitterick, and Professor Jeremy Baumberg of the Department of Physics. All nine Trustees are senior members of the University and are listed on our website. They give generously of their time in considering both general policy issues and individual research grant proposals.
The Trust’s financial year runs from July to June. In the year to June 2012, our main income, as usual, was the annual grant from Trinity College. We also received donations from alumni of Trinity and from other supporters, and investment income from the reserves that have built up over the last twenty-four years. Income this year was just over £3m, and our expenditure is budgeted to exceed that for the foreseeable future, in view of our accumulation of reserves in past years. In 2011-12 it was £4.15m. (Note: These figures are net of university and corporate contributions to undergraduate bursaries.)
Of this figure, the Trust spent £2.37m (2010-11: £2.42m) on research grants to members of the University, £1.15m (2010-11: £1.13m) on bursaries to Cambridge undergraduates, and £450,000 on its four other schemes, mentioned below. Finally, as usual, about 4% of the Trust’s annual expenditure goes on administration and investment management fees.
Support for research
The Trust has its own termly research grant application process, which has run since its foundation in 1988, and for which all academic employees of the University are eligible, through their Department. It also increasingly works with other bodies in the University on other schemes to encourage the best young researchers to Cambridge.
The number of applications to the Trust’s own research grant scheme has grown steadily over the last few years, suggesting that it fulfils an ever more valuable function in supplementing external funding for first-class university research, in a climate where external funding opportunities seem to be shrinking. This year there were 87 new applications, slightly down on last year’s record number, but still substantially more than in the past (the annual average was 66 between 2004 and 2009). Almost all were for post-doctoral salaries. About three-quarters of them are from the science Departments. The numerical decline was the result of the stricter criteria that the Trust introduced last year. We are now more explicit in prioritising applications from Principal Investigators at an early stage in their careers, and applications which will boost the Department or research group’s longer-term strategy and profile. In normal circumstances we discourage applications from senior academics who have already gained substantial programme grants or equivalents, and who should, therefore, be able to fund salaries on their next projects from the major national and international research funding agencies. Departments seems to appreciate this strategy
The Trust now publishes on its website a list of the research grants that it awards. As the list shows, some grants are awarded from the Opportunities Fund, a Fund that the Trust has set up especially to allow supporters of the University to donate to help the research of early career academics who cannot easily access Research Council and other external funding. Four or five grants are awarded from the Opportunities Fund every year. Anyone interested in helping the work of the Opportunities Fund should contact the Director.
The university now publishes (online and on paper) a regular magazine called Research Horizons, which contains articles about a cross-section of new University research projects. In nearly every issue some of the articles discuss research that the Trust has supported financially. You may wish to subscribe to our RSS feed to read the latest articles in which the Trust’s support is mentioned. These pieces give some sense of the Trust’s activities.
As well as giving its own grants, the Trust has worked with the University’s Research Strategy Office to set up and subsidise University-run programmes to provide targeted institutional support for early career lecturers, one in the physical sciences and one in the biomedical. This has had the effect of leveraging external funding as well as taking some of the pressure off the Trust’s own scheme. The first round of each competition was held in 2012 and we hope that they will become an established part of the University research environment.
In addition to support for early career lecturers, some of the Trust’s larger grants go to support strategic University initiatives. This year we have been able to contribute to packages of research support for incoming senior academics in an increasingly competitive global market for the best talent.
By necessity, most of the Trust’s routine research grant expenditure goes to the sciences. To complement this, the Trust continues to supply substantial funding to the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), which offers postdoctoral Fellowships and brings researchers of all ages, and many visiting scholars, together in stimulating interdisciplinary settings. Further details can be found here. The Trust also supports the University’s Humanities Research Grant scheme, and provides 100% of the funding for the new but already very clearly successful Small Research Grant Scheme in the Humanities, which gives teaching staff small sums for initial scoping work on projects, mostly carried out by students in the vacations.
The Trust supplies the required internal half-funding for those postdoctoral researchers who win one of the Leverhulme Trust’s prestigious Early Career Fellowships and hold them at Cambridge. Eighty Fellowships are available nationally, for the most promising researchers across all disciplines. The Trust runs an annual competition to filter applications from scholars in the humanities seeking these Fellowships. This year Cambridge received a record eleven awards in this scheme (nine in the humanities, two in the sciences), more than any other University, and it was very satisfying to be able to play our part in attracting them here. In 2013 the Trust will provide similar help to short-listed applicants from the University to the ESRC Future Leaders Scheme, for the social sciences.
Finally, this year the Trust began payments to the less well-endowed Colleges to subsidise the cost of Research Fellowships which they can demonstrate that they would not otherwise be able to afford to advertise. It has made seven awards to these Colleges to cover half the cost of these Fellowships, nearly all for junior researchers in the Humanities who are also expected to do a modest amount of College teaching.
To sum up in this category, therefore, the Trust is continually thinking strategically about the deployment of its research expenditure. It aims: to give employment opportunities a lot of outstandingly talented researchers at the crucial post-doctoral stage; to ensure that Cambridge continues to attract much of the best talent for the future; to offer initial research assistance to junior lecturers to get their labs and research groups up and running until they can compete for future external funding; and to assist the University proactively in its overall research strategy.
Support for students
The Cambridge Bursary Scheme, which the Trust continues to administer, offers vital support to students in these daunting financial times, and is extremely highly valued. Students are eligible for a Cambridge Bursary if they have a means-tested government maintenance grant, and the amount of the Cambridge Bursary is linked to it. In 2011-12 we received 3,100 valid applications. This was a take-up rate of over 90% of eligible students. 50% of the applicants (up from 44% last year) qualify for the maximum government grant, and thus for the maximum bursary of £3400. The total cost of the scheme this year was £7.2m. The Trust has historically contributed about 15% of this cost: the other funding comes from the University fee, the Colleges, and corporate and private donors.
In 2012-13 we are adjusting to the new funding regime and the rise in tuition fees to £9000. The Cambridge Bursary Scheme is continuing on much the same basis, offering a slightly increased maximum bursary of £3500 to students with a household income of less than £25,000 and smaller bursaries to those with household incomes of up to £42,600. Colleges are shouldering more of the cost of the scheme from the additional fee income, and the Trust is now paying 12% of the total, as well as continuing to administer it. The Trust’s contribution now goes explicitly to help the poorer Colleges to shoulder the burden. In addition there is a National Scholarship Programme offering a limited number of fee waivers for the most disadvantaged first-year students. The Trust will also administer this scheme from 2013, and has taken on an extra member of staff to help more broadly with bursary, database and financial matters, in recognition of the large number of activities that we now help to operate.
The Trust’s other four schemes continue, with minor changes. One of these gives opportunities to College Teaching Officers to lecture in Faculties and Departments, though it has been agreed that this will not be open to new applicants and plans are being considered for a different scheme. Another makes it easier for the poorer colleges to hire post-doctoral researchers in the sciences for Teaching Fellowships. The Trust supports the University’s scheme of graduate studentships, CHESS, by funding a fixed number of studentships at both PhD and M.Phil level, and discussions are under way on how Cambridge should enhance its graduate studentship support from 2014. Finally, the Trust subsidises ventures within the University that help undergraduates of modest financial means to undertake charitable activities and unpaid internships in vacations.
In all, then, the Trust’s expenditure on posts, on bursaries and on research will continue at a high rate for the next few years, and it will run an annual deficit. Its capital surplus allows it to do this without immediate problems, though Trustees are aware that we will not be able to continue this rate of expenditure indefinitely. These are busy and challenging times for Cambridge, and the Trust is very pleased to play a small part in trying to help its members, of all ages, to respond successfully to them.