Development Studies Association: 3 principles to minimise the impacts of the UKRI ODA cuts

We’re not giving up yet on a reversal to this heinous decision, but, the truth is that the timescales imposed by the BEIS decisions require universities to respond on behalf of their grant holders by 16th of April. So, the Development Studies Association has come up with some helpful guiding principles.


In short:

  • Take a ‘Do No Harm’ ethical stance ( consider vulnerabilities of participants and prioritise overseas and early career researchers)
  • Be as flexible as possible institutionally (to preserve contracts and make monies that remain count)
  • Decision-making needs to be open and transparent.

We call for a fair, flexible and accountable system of decision-making

Development Studies Association

Just as importantly they call for BEIS and UKRI to urgently reaffirm their commitment to this funding, to reverse the impacts, acknowledging their critical relevance to the Government’s own vision for a Global Britain.

You can read the full statement here.


All the learned Societies and Committees say STOP! Reverse the Cuts!

A remarkable feature of these recent cuts is the consortia of agreement. Here is a compilation of condemnation from the Great and the good of Global Britain. This now includes the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committees, The Royal Society, The Royal Society of Edinburgh, The Royal Society of Biology, The Academy of Medical Sciences, The Academy of Social Sciences, and the Development Studies Association.

The UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee condemned these and other cuts in. strongly worded letter to Boris Johnson (Prime Minister)

In the midst of a global pandemic, where we owe so much to science.. it would be paradoxical if science funding were cut. … I would appreciate your personal attention to resolving this urgent situation

Greg Clark, Chair HoS Science and Technology Committee in a Letter to Boris Johnson.

See Press Release and Letter in this link.

The UK House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Followed suit this week with another strongly worded letter (follow link here).

The impact of these cuts will be widespread and will undermine international relationships and collaborations that have been built on these funds. This should be of concern to the Government, who only last week in the Integrated Review committed to “putting S&T at the heart of our alliances and partnerships worldwide”. We urge that you do everything possible to maintain funding for these activities.

Lord Patel, Chair House of Lords Science and Technology Committee in a Letter to Boris Johnson

The Royal Society issued an explainer here.

Government actions undermine its ambitions for the UK to be a science superpower

Royal Society Explainer


The Development Studies Association has issued a policy brief and a statement

The Royal Society of Edinburgh have also responded in a letter here

The decision to drastically cut funding will impede international progress in key science areas such as climate change, health, wellbeing, food/agriculture, engineering etc. on which many of our RSE Fellows, Corresponding Fellows and Young Academy of Scotland members lead (such as work addressing violence against women and girls across LMICs and COVID-19 research collaboration). These decisions will also seriously undermine our reputation as a trusted international partner.

Royal Society of Edinburgh response to the ODA cuts

as has the Academy of Social Sciences here.

While cancellation of future projects says something about the UK’s priorities, cancellation of existing commitments says something even more profound about our international trustworthiness. With national and regional governments, the World Bank, various UN Committee, and wider civil societies, in the partner countries all involved in ..GCRF project partnerships, as well as leading universities across the world, the impact on our reputation will be both extensive and profound.

Academy of Social Sciences response to the ODA cuts

The Royal Society of Biology has added its voice to the objections in a letter to Boris Johnson.

I share the dismay of the very many at the potentially truncated projects, ended jobs and dissolved knowledge networks as a result of cuts to the ODA budget. It is antithetic to the Government’s stated ambition to the build the global standing of UK research and innovation.

Dr Mark Downs, Chief Executive, Royal Society of Biology

The Academy of Medical Sciences issued a strong statement that includes these words

we are now facing significant cuts to research funded by the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget that will significantly affect live grants, halting new and potentially lifesaving research. These cuts will cause serious and lasting damage to international relationships and the UK’s reputation, both of which could take years to rebuild.

All of us working in research understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a huge toll on the economic outlook and that difficult decisions must be made. But the pandemic has also demonstrated why investing in research is so important, and how UK science can step up to play its part on the global stage.

Professor Dame Anne Johnson, President, Academy of Medical Sciences


Letter from Pakistan

Dr Nausheen H Anwar, Professor City & Regional Planning and Director of the Karachi Urban Lab shared her thoughts with us about the funding cuts.

GCRF funding has enabled us to deploy resources for crucial capacity building for a younger generation of researchers in Pakistan….funding cuts will no doubt impact the most these young researchers and the wider local and international community of partnerships in which we are embedded

Dr Anwar, Karachi Urban Lab

 I am writing to express my deep disappointment at the announcement of impending cuts to GCRF funding in the United Kingdom. My research lab in Karachi, Pakistan – Karachi Urban Lab (KUL) – is partner/collaborator on two major GCRF grants:
A GCRF Network Grant with Nottingham University: “Climate Change & Urban Violence Network” 
A GCRF grant with University of Edinburgh: “Cool Infrastructures: Life with Heat in the Off-Grid City” 
Both grants address critical gaps in knowledge that is urgently needed for meeting global challenges: (1) Promoting new understanding and learnings about the interactions between climate crisis and urban violence in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America; and (2) investigating and understanding the impact of rising temperatures on vulnerable populations in urban centers in Asia, South East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The crucial work that these GCRF grants generate, is based on building international partnerships to create a substantive knowledge network for shaping policy-making agendas at a global scale. 
Over the past year, my colleagues and I have been generating critical, grounded research on these key global challenges associated with the impact of climate crisis in urban centers across Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The funding has enabled my research lab to expand by hiring young local graduate students who are investigating the impacts of heatwaves and urban flooding on the urban poor in cities like Karachi.  The funding has also enabled the research center to create partnerships with local civil society organizations (NGOs, neighborhood-based associations, community activists) and state representatives in Karachi/Pakistan, to generate a substantive debate on finding solutions at the local level, and to influence policy outcomes at the national and global levels, especially for gender inclusivity in policy making and planning to mitigate climate crisis impacts.  
Pakistan has officially been designated as a ‘climate hotspot’; its cities are experiencing climate crisis impacts that range from heatwaves and urban flooding to associated displacements and violence. Cities like Karachi also contain some of the most vulnerable populations in Pakistan; these populations are being impacted in complex ways, for instance long-standing structural dynamics that exacerbate the impacts of heatwaves and urban flooding on the urban poor. By focusing on these complex connections, our GCRF funded research is generating crucial quantitative and qualitative data that is being shared with policy makers, communities, and multilateral organizations. 

Further, the GCRF funding has enabled us to deploy resources for crucial capacity building for a younger generation of researchers in Pakistan; young researchers for whom there are limited pathways for engaging in critical thinking, critical/cutting edge research, and much more. 
The funding cuts will not doubt impact the most these young researchers and the wider local and international community of partnerships in which we are embedded.  I am certainly desperate to see the decision reversed. 

Vote to amend and reverse ODA cuts

Time is of the essence now with an amendment tabled for Monday 7th June to the ‘advanced research and invention agency bill’. This introduces a clause which will reverse the cuts, if the amendments win via vote in Parliament. If you have some time please write to your MP to encourage them to vote for the amendment, particularly if they are on this list.

Here is a template of text for you to cut and paste:


You will no doubt have seen the news on the BBC and be aware from your work in Parliament that Andrew Mitchell MP has organised for a vote to take place on Monday 7th June on upholding the law and the manifesto commitment of your party to retain the 0.7% indexed GDP contribution to overseas development assistance (ODA).


Since the cuts from 0.7% to 0.5% were announced and enacted they have had a serious impact on the world’s most vulnerable populations; on the work of Universities and Aid organisations including Faith communities in the United Kingdom, and on the reputation and diplomatic missions of the United Kingdom. In particular, in a year when the U.K. is hosting the G7; G20 and COP26 the cuts have substantively undermined the claims of the U.K. Government to be placing the climate mitigations and global challenges at the heart of their agenda.


The U.K. Government’s own G7 priorities state that “we must champion our values and support the poorest nations to grow alongside us. We will promote global development and democracy, supporting girls’ education, food security, health and sustainable development financing.” https://www.g7uk.org/policy-priorities/ The ODA cuts undermine this goal and the ability of our institutions to be strengthened through international partnerships. The cuts have already had a deleterious effect on many world leading institutions, especially Universities, in the U.K. as world-leading scientists have seen their research and development work cut by 70% and the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals not just paused, but set back by a decade. 

You will be aware that the majority of the National Academies have condemned the cuts in public statements, from the Royal Society, to the Academy of Social Sciences and The Royal Society of Edinburgh as well as many august academic societies across all disciplines. United Nations Organisations have condemned the cuts and the Secretary General Antonio Gutteres has described the U.K. Aid cuts as “a death sentence.” 

We urge you to join your colleagues in their vote on Monday against these cuts and to rectify a situation of profound embarrassment, morally and practically, to the U.K., in the vote on Monday.

Yours sincerely,

Un-Global Britain

A collation of posts and observations around the impact the recent decision is having on global relationships.

  1. Direct experience

Since 2014 we have been developing a strong working partnership with a high-profile Indian research institute. At a meeting last week, following the announcement of the budget cuts, it was revealed that the institute’s board had instructed staff to start prioritising partnerships elsewhere, especially with universities in mainland Europe, instead of the UK.

A colleague

2. Four letters to the UK from India, Bangladesh and Kenya from the ARISE Consortium



A Letter from Kenya from ARISE consortium.

Our approach supports communities to be active drivers of the charge towards the promotion of equity, security, health and well-being in informal urban settlements..[..].This model research engagement is being shaken and may be aborted if the funding cut announced by the UKRI are not reversed

Letter from Kenya for the ARISE consortium

This coming together to the improve the living conditions of disadvantaged populations in urban informal settlements, was possible only because of the constitution of the ARISE Hub supported by UKRI. The proposal to slash funds for such work in low- and middle-income countries will adversely impact the scale and the impact of the project, leaving the participating marginalised communities in the lurch, and engendering a loss of faith and confidence with the partner civil society organisations that will negatively influence the work they may take up in the future.

Quote from the ARISE consortium letter from India

3. Cancelled project ReFashion had the capacity to help Britain become a global leader in sustainable fashion. Thread here on how this lies in tatters.

4. Other countries are ready to help and show real leadership and partnership.

Actions and Insights

In the last few days there has been a lot of coverage of the cuts and their impacts. These pieces all give further insight into the partnersships compromised, research truncated and the impacts to the UK’s global research reputation

We have a portfolio of almost over 900 projects, they are absolutely fantastic, its really excellent work, across a very wide range of countries.. there is a lot of focus particularly on the Sustainable Development Goals. Really such important work that has been built over many years, that involves building long term .. relationships and bringing huge benefits to communities in the Developing countries but crucially also to the UK research and innovation community.

Dame Ottoline Leyser, CEO UK Research and Innovation

This Observer article documents the folly of cutting overseas aid using the context of the global pandemic and the search to reduce antimicrobial resistance. The damage that these cuts will do compromises our means to respond to the next global health disaster.

“Critically, the Covid-19 pandemic has made amply clear the interdependencies across our world. We well understand that health risks and vulnerabilities are shared globally, as are the solutions being developed the world over to address emerging health threats.”


If you want to sign up to the Global Health Letter you can find it here.

Blogs and Outrage

These posts here from last week provide a taste of the impacts.

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