Today, the Guardian published an article by Peter Scott titled ‘The UK is becoming the nasty country, and our universities will suffer’ that contained a number of criticisms of the government’s Higher Education and Research Bill. Please see details setting out the government position.
1. “There will no longer be even a semblance of a buffer body between universities and the state when the Higher Education Funding Council is replaced by the Office for Students”
The Office for Students (OfS) will be an independent, non-departmental body, just as the current regulator, HEFCE, is now. The OfS will place students at the heart of regulation by having an explicit legal duty to promote choice and consider the student, employer and taxpayer interests.
2. “The dual-support system, which distinguishes between core research funding and research council grants, cannot long survive when both come from the same source, UK Research and Innovation (headed by a civil servant not a scientist).”
For the first time, the government is protecting in law the dual support research funding system in England. This has been well received among the research community, including by the Royal Society who welcomed ‘the on-going commitment to investing in excellent research wherever it is found, to protecting the Haldane Principle, and the intention to enshrine the dual support system in legislation’.
Further to this, the concept of balanced funding as described in the Bill means that the two funding streams which make up the dual support system must be reasonably balanced. The Secretary of State will be required to consider any advice UKRI provides on this balance of funding.
In parallel, we recognise the importance of UKRI board members, including the Chair and CEO, having the appropriate experience to fulfil these important roles. We will seek to recruit the very best people, with the highest levels of relevant skills and experience, and from a diverse range of backgrounds. They will be recognised for their experience and expertise spanning research and business-led innovation, and their ability to represent the full range of interests of the UK’s research and innovation system.