UCL Vice-Provosts on the future of UK higher education
5 August 2010
In this age of austerity, we need to fund excellence, argue UCL Vice-Provosts David Price and Stephen Caddick in the Times Higher Education today.
"UK higher education is at a crossroads and we face a stark choice: either diminution across the board as universities struggle to respond to the financial challenges or a major restructuring of the sector to play to our diverse strengths," explain Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research) and Professor Stephen Caddick, UCL Vice-Provost (Enterprise).
"There have recently been two major speeches by government ministers on the research base and on university funding. We are gratified to see that Vince Cable, the business secretary, is considering reforms to university funding. The current economic climate and fierce international competition require that we think seriously about how we can sustain a world-class higher education sector. He is right to recognise that "we cannot have an economically dynamic, socially mobile or culturally rich society without strong universities". Equally, it is reassuring to hear such a strong affirmation of the value of science from the universities minister, David Willetts. [...]
Watch Professor David Price discuss the future of UK higher education
"Research and innovation should be at the heart of rebuilding the economy, as Willetts has rightly pointed out. However, it is important to remember that UK universities already are at the heart of our economy and are a highly successful industry, generating £59 billion of output every year and creating almost 670,000 full-time equivalent jobs throughout the economy (equivalent to 2.6 per cent of the workforce in employment). [...]
"Given the importance of universities to the UK's economic prosperity and our social wellbeing, how best can the UK fund universities to support both a world-class higher education system and safeguard the UK's position as a world leader in research?The abiding principle should be to fund excellence. This is broadly agreed and has driven UK research funding policy for decades. We argue that two further maxims should guide policy:
• Fund research that is internationally competitive in institutions that are able to compete and leverage their UK funding by collaborating on the global stage
• Recognise the unique importance of research-intensive multi-faculty universities. They can stimulate the cross-disciplinary working that enables the dynamism of the research base as well as the capacity to tackle systemically complex global problems by applying knowledge and insights achieved from working across different disciplines."
To read the full comment in the Times Higher Education, follow the link at the top of this article.