Nurse review: create Research UK body to oversee research councils

Merger ‘inappropriate’, but seven councils would be overseen by new chief executive

November 19, 2015

The Nurse review of the UK’s research councils recommends bringing them closer together under a new and stronger body, Research UK, whose head would be in charge of all seven councils.

On the dual support system of funding research through competitive grants and via quality-related funding of universities, the review says that “there is an argument for incorporating [the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s] research functions including the REF within Research UK, although its functions and budgets should be kept distinct from those of the Research Councils”.

But it adds that the “dual support system should be preserved”.

Although the report says a merger would be “inappropriate”, it also says that the Research UK chief executive would be accounting officer for all the research councils.

The review, led by Sir Paul Nurse and published today, comes ahead of the government’s spending review on 25 November.

A merger between the seven research councils had been thought to be one option that might be considered by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, as it seeks to make savings by reducing the number of bodies it funds.

Sir Paul said: “My recommendations seek to ensure that the different parts of the UK research system are working effectively together to support an endeavour with impact that is greater than the sum of its parts.

“To achieve this, the research councils must remain distinct in terms of their specialities but should be arranged under a single organisation which can strengthen their collective strategy and voice.”

The review report says: “Merger into a single council is not appropriate as it would be disruptive, distance research funding from the research community, reduce agility, and critically make it difficult to recruit the highest quality leadership at the individual discipline level.”

A press release summary of the report issued by BIS said the review recommends “evolving Research Councils UK into Research UK as a formal organisation for managing cross-Council research funds, formulating a strong collective strategic position, and ensuring an efficient approach to administrative functions”.

It would be “at arm’s length from Government as a Non-Departmental Public Body”, the press release adds.

The review document says the Research UK chief executive “would become the Accounting Officer collectively for all the Research Councils, reporting to a single oversight Board, and should be a highly distinguished scientist, capable of delivering a managerially efficient organisation and of interacting effectively with Government”.

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 6 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

Reader's comments (1)

Bureaucratic restructuring will only create more bureaucracy, and even less thinking.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

man with frozen beard, Lake Louise, Canada

Australia also makes gains in list of most attractive English-speaking nations as US slips