Sir Christopher Snowden, the University of Surrey and UUK president, will speak on the opening day of UUK’s annual conference today, where he will also call for “a 10-year plan to increase public investment in research” and “a change in government immigration policy” on international students.
His words on fees and funding may be interpreted as a shot across the bows of the Labour Party, which is considering whether to commit to lowering fees to £6,000 if it returns to government.
Greg Clark, the universities and science minister, will also speak at the conference, being held at the University of Leeds.
Sir Christopher will say on research: “If the UK’s public investment in research continues to lag behind our competitors, the UK will struggle to remain a world-leading research power. We cannot be complacent, we need to act now.
“That is why we are asking that a new government establish a 10-year plan to increase public investment in research – in real terms – year on year to sustain our position as a premier global research power.”
On international students, he will say: “UK degrees are recognised worldwide and right now we are educating students from some of the strongest growing economies, including India, China, Brazil and Nigeria.
“Recently however, this positive contribution has been overshadowed by the changes to the student visa and immigration regime, creating a strong adverse perception in many countries, and after a period of strong growth, the decline in numbers of international students from some parts of the world is a serious concern.
“We need a change in government immigration policy to realise the fantastic opportunity this country has in continuing to attract the brightest and the best international students and staff to our shores.”
Sir Christopher will add that the UK needs “an ambitious, government-backed strategy for growth” alongside “more favourable post-study work opportunities” for international students.
On funding, he will say that “there must be cross-party consensus for a long-term and sustainable system of funding”.
“Neither students nor universities benefit from the funding system being overhauled every few years,” Sir Christopher will add. “The stability needed by universities and students will only be achieved if the system is properly funded. That means both the public and private costs of higher education being affordable, and the system attracting political consensus.”