R&D freeze cuts no ice

August 1, 2013

Public investment in UK higher education research is crucial to the academy maintaining its world-class status. As your graph shows (“Who greases the wheels of research? Funding for UK higher education shifts up a gear”, News, 25 July), offering a patina of protection to the science budget or relying on private investment will not allow us to keep pace with competitor countries.

The National Audit Office report from which the graph’s figures are taken says that higher education institutions play an increasingly significant role in terms of research and development. In fact, they contribute  per cent of total R&D spending in the UK, compared with 19 per cent across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The NAO report suggests that the UK cannot rely on business to invest significantly more in research: its expenditure in this area has risen by only 17 per cent since 1995, compared with a 114 per cent increase in research council funding.

While there has been a welcome rise in the UK academy’s R&D spending since 1995, the NAO warns that other nations have increased their investment at a faster rate. The report goes on to suggest that this could reflect the “increasing emphasis that some countries are placing on higher education as a way to rebalance their economies and recover from recession”.

In such a competitive international climate, and at a time when other countries are continuing to prioritise additional funding for research and science, it is not enough for the UK government simply to “protect” the science budget with a continued freeze (which after all is a real-terms cut). We need significant increases in the research budget if we are to maintain our proud international reputation.

Simon Renton
President
University and College Union

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations