Well, anyone who thought the Minister would have less to do in this session of Parliament, other than oversee the implementation of the Higher Education and Research Act, was underestimating him. Rather unexpectedly he demonstrated yesterday that he had fully embraced the Fusion model (he calls it a three legged stool) by announcing a new excellence framework for knowledge exchange to sit alongside REF and TEF. We have a bit on each, along with an update on that funding review (what funding review) and some other news.
New Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF)
REF, TEF (even when it’s TESOF, see below) and now the KEF….a new excellence framework has been announced by the Minister at the annual HEFCE conference.
Described by the Minster (apparently) as the “third leg of the HE stool” this new framework will be run by Research England (under its head (designate), David Sweeney, and also responsible for the REF). Like the REF, the KEF will have a clear cash “carrot” for participation and to motivate high performance – it will provide a new method for allocating Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF).
The story was all about the UK’s competitiveness. The Minister celebrated the quality of UK research but challenged the sector to have more connection to the wider world and impact on the economy, to justify the “outsize role” that universities play in Research and Development in the UK – compared to industry. He said:
- “…the system needs to find a new gear. University income from business engagement is growing more slowly than the economy as a whole, with British universities producing fewer spin-outs and less licensing income per pound of research resource than US counterparts. As a greater proportion of R&D takes place in universities in the UK than in other countries, it’s especially important that we get this right.”
- “Over half of the money the UK taxpayer provides for R&D goes to the Higher Education sector – £4.8bn out of £8.8bn in 2015.
- The result is that a far greater proportion of R&D – 26% – takes place in our universities – than in comparable countries, with 20% in France, 17% in Germany, 13% in the US and 12% in Japan.
- This funding arrangement has helped ensure the excellence of British universities and their strong performance in international league tables, which give a heavy weighting to research.
- But the fact that by international standards an unusually large proportion of our R&D activity takes place within our universities brings with it increased responsibilities.”