In an effort to distract us all from the European elections at the start of half-term, the Department for Education published the Augar Review last week with a focus on undergraduate students; it is, therefore, outside the regular purview of PraxisAuril’s policy desk where focus tends to be on outputs from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and post-graduate upwards. The Augar review does not entirely ignore the BEIS role in university policy, stating that one of the purposes of post-18 education is to “support innovation through research & development (R&D), commercial ideas, and global talent” (Chapter 1) noting the need to work with business and support innovation. The recommendations around skills, career pathways and apprenticeships it relates the undergraduate environment to the Industrial Strategy. But the focus on the value of particular subjects to the public purse and in pursuit of the 2.4% target could have unintended consequences for future industrial research themes.
As the Augar recommendations are worked through and responded to in more detail we should be alert to consequences for KE specifically because this is a holistic system of funding and resource. Augar addresses tuition fees and there are other conversations going on about current levels of QR funding and fears about EU funding of course. If major income streams are reduced then universities may well be challenged on what are ‘must have’ activities linked to perceptions of cost, value and impact. How will KE fair in those challenges? The KEF will help to embed KE in the sector as a strategic commitment and it is good timing that consultations are happening now.
For insight into how intricate university funding is, turn to the Lords Science & Technology Select Committee’s current inquiry on Science research funding in universities. This discusses in the round the impact of funding changes and challenges across teaching, research and EU income streams, and as such is very timely.
HEFCW Consultation on implementing the Research Wales Innovation Fund
The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales has published proposals for implementation of a new funding scheme to support innovation and engagement activity at Welsh HEIs (funding for which was withdrawn in 2013/14). This is very welcome news and we’re delighted that the Welsh Government, through HEFCW, has responded so positively to recommendations made by the Reid Review of Government Funded Research & Innovation in Wales (2018) – which PraxisAuril responded to – and the Diamond Review of HE funding and student finance (2016).
- £15m p.a. in principle for the sector for at least the next three years from October 2020.
- A baseline annual £250,000 Capacity Grant for all HEIs to promote stability across HEI functions.
- Main fund allocation will be based on selected key HEBCIS income measures (normalized by the number of FTE academic staff).
- HEIs will be required to submit a 3-year strategy reflective of institutional missions and HEFCW’s forthcoming ‘Vision for Wales’.
- Indicative funding allocations for Welsh HEIs represent a significant uplift in resource for the sector.
Innovation activity in Wales is particularly vulnerable to potential changes in European funding post-Brexit so this is a timely announcement that will put an end to much uncertainty, although not all since the recommendations of the Augar Review may have an impact in Wales too.
SFC review of University Innovation Funding (UIF)
The Scottish Funding Council will also review its current innovation funding programme over the next academic year to check progress against its original vision and objectives. We are delighted that Sean Fielding, PraxisAuril’s Chair, has been invited to sit on the SFC review group.
UK university IP ranking
A new university ranking has been published this month. IP Rank sets out to “investigate and rank how UK universities approach the ownership and management of the IP developed by their students”. Note that this is about students who, the site acknowledges, are not employees and so generally own any IP they generate, but also about their access to IP policies and documentation. The underlying principle, that PraxisAuril supports, is that IP policies should be easily accessible to students (and staff, of course) and their relevance to them clear. This is all the more important given the strong enterprise education agenda in universities and initiatives by the IPO, in particular, to provide targeted IP education to students and early career researchers (see crackingideas.com).
Tamsin Mann, Head of Policy