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Any feedback or questions should be addressed to by 31 March 2014.

Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

STEM teaching capital funding allocation

1. On 30 September 2013, the Minister for Universities and Science announced a £200 million fund from Government, to be matched by institutions and other sources, for investment in science and engineering teaching facilities (‘£400 million will help science and engineering students get ahead in the global race and encourage more women to study these subjects’). We received confirmation of this funding in our grant letter in February 2014, and then a separate letter with further instructions about its use (see Annex C below).

2. This letter sets out our initial proposals for the processes that will underpin distribution of this fund. We do not require a response to this letter, but welcome feedback on our approach, including the criteria proposed for the competitive element. We intend to publish full details of the scheme, and where appropriate invite bids, after our proposals (informed by responses to this letter) are agreed by the HEFCE Board in July. This letter includes a provisional timetable for this process to enable institutions to plan for the development and submission of bids.

3. Capital funding is currently distributed in a variety of ways – through both formulaic and specific capital funding initiatives (such as this exercise). We continue to remain committed to allocating some capital funding through formulaic processes, and compliance with the Capital Investment Framework (CIF) is a key factor in this for higher education institutions. In response to Government priorities, however, increasing amounts of capital funding have been allocated competitively. While the criteria and process outlined in this letter relate solely to this fund and do not affect other allocations for capital, we are also considering how we may take a more strategic overview of different capital funding streams in the future.

4. Any feedback or questions should be addressed to by 31 March 2014.

Outline of allocation process

5. The majority of available funding will be allocated through a competitive process which will take place during summer 2014. Institutions with science, technology, engineering and mathematics provision of more than 1,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) UK or European Union (EU) students will be eligible to bid provided they meet the criteria set out below. In order to minimise burden, the remainder of the funding will be distributed formulaically to those institutions with smaller-scale STEM provision. Institutions eligible for a formulaic allocation will have this released following receipt of a satisfactory plan outlining their compliance with key criteria for the funding.

6. We believe that this approach will:

  • uphold the competitive approach requested by Government
  • enable us to distribute funds to support a range of STEM provision, including those institutions most able to meet the Government’s aspiration to support the growth of STEM provision underpinning the industrial strategy
  • maximise student opportunity.

7. The £200 million will be divided between the two streams, with £180 million available to institutions with UK and EU taught STEM numbers exceeding 1,000 FTE, and £20 million available formulaically for institutions with fewer than 1,000 FTE, based on the number of such students in 2011-12; this represents the proportion of the overall allocation that would have been devoted to smaller providers if it had all been allocated formulaically and as such is intended to provide opportunities for STEM providers of all kinds. All funding is conditional on the institution providing matched funding from its own funds, or other sources, on at least a 1:1 equivalent basis. Institutions that do not meet this requirement will not be eligible for funding.

8. Bids for up to £5 million of HEFCE funding (£10 million full project cost) will be considered through the competitive route, although we will be prepared to allow larger bids where this underpins collaboration with other institutions.

9. The investment from the Government is focused on infrastructure to support the teaching of students in STEM subjects. For the purposes of these allocations, we are taking a broad definition of STEM, and have included taught students in physical and biological sciences and engineering, which would include computer science, mathematics and agricultural science. We have used the Joint Academic Coding System (JACS) to determine the size of institutional populations in these areas. A full list of the JACS codes considered is included as Annex A of this letter, and Annex B provides a list of institutions that we consider to be eligible to access a formulaic allocation or bid. Use of this STEM capital funding should therefore focus on projects supporting teaching in these areas.

10. While the funding can be used across a range of STEM areas, institutions putting together competitive bids should focus particularly on supporting growth in STEM that is aligned with and supports the Government’s industrial strategy (‘Using Industrial Strategy to help the UK economy and business compete and grow’).

11. The Government has also indicated that use of this funding should include a criterion related to equality and diversity. As we are keen to minimise burden for institutions, we intend when making our assessment in this area to request evidence primarily from existing institutional strategies and statements on equality and diversity – for example, equality schemes where they exist, or other formal equality and diversity reports. We also expect, however, to ask institutions to provide further evidence through the teaching capital bidding process of their specific commitment to increasing opportunities for under-represented groups in STEM subjects, with a view to elaborating on their existing statements.

12. Those institutions that are successful will receive the government element of STEM capital funding in financial year 2015-16. It will need to be utilised fully within that financial year, although there is more flexibility around the timing of the use of matched funding.

Summary of criteria for the competitive process

13. We propose that those institutions entering the competition should address the following issues in their STEM teaching capital bids, and that there should be an assessment of the relative merits of these submissions.

  1. Have met the requirements of HEFCE’s Capital Investment Framework 2 (CIF2) threshold (higher education institutions only).
  2. A convincing strategy for growth in UK and EU STEM recruitment, with clear links to the proposed capital investments.
  3. The impact this growth and the improved facilities will have beyond the institution, including through links with employers and other bodies, through graduate employability and with reference to the relevant elements of the Government’s industrial strategy.
  4. A robust strategy for addressing any issues of equality and diversity in students studying STEM programmes. There is no expectation that the capital investment itself will address this general requirement, which instead should be addressed in this bid through existing institutional statements and strategies relating to equality and diversity, supported by additional relevant evidence.
  5. A sustainable commitment to STEM provision in the area or areas where the bid is focused, and evidence as to the sustainability of the proposed investment.
  6. Evidence of the robustness of the plans for this capital investment and their feasibility within the timescale for investment.
  7. Value for money, including matched funding from the institution’s or its partner’s funds, which must be at least on a one-to-one basis with any funds bid for in this competition.

14. Institutions eligible to receive a formulaic allocation will be required to submit a short statement or plan which satisfactorily addresses the following areas before funding will be released:

  • ability to match fund the funding allocation
  • feasibility of the plans within the timescale for investment
  • future focus on growth of UK and EU STEM provision
  • commitment to equality and diversity across STEM provision.

15. We will provide fuller details of our expectations in these areas when we publish our full invitation to bid in the summer. In the meantime, if you would like to comment on our proposed approach, including the criteria for bidding, then we welcome your feedback. Comments should be sent to no later than 31 March 2014.


16. The following table provides our draft timetable to allow institutions to plan the development and submission of their bids:

Activity Date
Circular letter outlining draft criteria 28 February 2014
Deadline for comments on our proposed approach 31 March 2014
HEFCE considers responses to letter and develops final proposals April to May 2014
HEFCE Board agree proposals July 2014
Publication of invitation to bid and full criteria; publication of formulaic allocations and details of how to release these July 2014
Deadline for bids and information to release formulaic allocations End September 2014
Bids considered by HEFCE and external panel October to November 2014
Successful bids notified December 2014
Funding available Financial year 2015-16


Yours sincerely


Professor Madeleine Atkins

Chief Executive

Annex A: JACS codes to be included in the definition of STEM for STEM teaching capital allocation 

Download the Annex A as PDF (70 KB)Download the Annex A as MS Word (46 KB)

Annex B: Institutions eligible to bid and those eligible for a formulaic allocation

Download the Annex B as PDF (81 KB)Download the Annex B as MS Word (43 KB)

Annex C: Letter from David Willetts to Madeleine Atkins February 2014

Download the D_Willetts_to_Madeleine_Atkins_February_2014 as PDF (444 KB)

Print-friendly version, including Annexes A and B

Download the Print-friendly version, including Annexes A and B as PDF (138 KB)

Date: 28 February 2014

Ref: Circular letter 02/2014

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Senior management, Finance, Planning, Estates

Enquiries should be directed to:

Caroline Charlton, tel 0117 931 7318, e-mail