Lib Dems adopt motion calling for increased science investment

The Liberal Democrats have adopted a motion to build cross-party consensus around large increases to the science and research budget, and to press for a public loans system for postgraduates.

September 24, 2012

The policy motion, adopted unanimously by delegates at the Lib Dem conference in Brighton today, calls for a 15-year commitment to increase a ring-fenced science and research budget by 3 per cent more than inflation.

It was proposed by Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge and a former researcher at the University of Cambridge.

He described the motion as the product of a year's work with academics, learned societies and others.

The UK is "in danger of losing [its] reputation as a world leader in research and development" because the sector is "under-funded", he told the conference.

He said of Labour and the Conservatives: "If they really care about the future of this country, I hope they will rise to our challenge."

On postgraduate funding, he said that the present system of upfront payments was "surely the wrong approach".

The motion calls for a publicly-backed system of income-contingent loans. Like the undergraduate loans system, this would mean postgraduates could "pay the cost back when they are earning well" and not have pay anything upfront.

It also asks for immigration laws to be revised to ensure "bona fide international students" can continue to come to the UK to study with the brightest then able to stay, work and settle after graduation.

John Martin, a professor at University College London and Yale University, spoke in favour of the motion.

But he said the UK had "failed in its potential to produce wealth from science over the last 20 years".

This was because universities were "driven to do small science because of the funding system and peer review system", he argued.

Professor Martin said the NHS could be a "research engine" that was the "best in the world".

He repeated his call for the government to generate support from sovereign wealth funds, creating a £1 billion fund that would link university research with major pharmaceutical firms and the NHS.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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