Sector responds to the Autumn Statement

The Autumn Statement has been issued and the Twitter-sphere moves on, so the process of looking at the fine details in terms of figures and facts and considering their implications can begin. We are still waiting for the Science & Innovation Strategy paper, of course, which was meant to be issued along with the Statement but should now be published next week. PraxisUnico will also keep an eye to recommendations from the Business, Innovation & Skills Select Committee report (which we commented on earlier this week [link]) when considering further announcements from the government.

In the meantime, PraxisUnico has been looking at how our sector has been responding over the past 24 hours to the Chancellor’s headlines. At the moment, the proposal to introduce postgraduate loans for master’s students under 30 years old, has garnered most comments – understandably perhaps as the message for research funding and the science ring-fence was more ‘wait and see’. The Chancellor declared science a personal priority and pointed to the UK’s rise from 14th to 2nd in the Global Innovation Index with an aspiration to hit the top spot (timeframe not included).  Will the investment set-out for new research facilities help the UK to meet that aspiration? For PraxisUnico and its members, one question is what provisions will those facilities have for engaging businesses – of all sizes – in collaborations, and for the translation and commercialisation of research? We have regularly highlighted the importance of people in successful research commercialisation and this is just one reason why HEIF funding has been so important to our sector. It has enabled research institutions of many kinds to employ and train professional staff dedicated to knowledge and technology transfer applicable to their context and customers, underpinned by legal frameworks and informed by sector best practice. We hope to see statements of support for this aspect of research activity over the next days and months.

Sector comments following the Autumn Statement

  • HEFCE welcomes the postgraduate loans announcement.
  • Universities UK leads on postgraduate loans, commends the Chancellor’s “personal prioritisation” of science and innovation but calls for long-term commitment and research spending commensurate with the UK’s international competitors.
  • The Russell Group supports the postgraduate loan initiative and welcomes the research capital announcements alongside those for the Research Patnership Investment Fund and High Manufacturing Catapult, but looks forward to ‘more detail in the coming days’ on the Science and Innovation Strategy.
    Million+ quickly issued their statement on postgraduate loans, welcoming the move but calling for reconsideration of the upper age limit to the scheme. A previous statement (issued 1st Dec) pre-empted the Science & Innovation Strategy by referring to the fact that science investment is still being concentrated in the top few percentage of universities (by QR).
  • University Alliance also calls for the government to support “excellence wherever it exists”.
  • The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) asks “Does the government back the Chancellor’s ‘personal prioritisation of science’?" and notes the absence of the Science and Innovation Strategy which should have been delivered by the government alongside the Autumn Statement. CaSE’s response also contains a useful summary of sector-relevant points.
  • The CBI would also have liked to have seen more on research and development in the Chancellor’s speech. Its statement says “Business want to see a more ambitious vision in the Science and Innovation Strategy when it is published next week”.

In the sector media, ResearchResearch summarises key points in its article, quoting the Institute for Physics as calling for long-term guarantees on capital spending. The Times Higher (THES) welcomes postgraduate loans but asks what about mature students? The magazine also features and article on Osborne’s ‘Crick of the North’. The Guardian focuses on postgraduate loans in its headlines while on its HE network wider comments include a letter from the LibDem's ‘Team Science’ calling for increased R&D and long-term commitment to science spending. Finally, WonkHE provides a round-up of reactions to the postgraduate loan initiative as well as a comment on the Statement itself from GuildHE Chairman, Andy Westwood.