Professor David Price: restructuring research funding (UCL)


>>So in the UK we have a
number of universities, all of whom are carrying
out research, all of whom are carrying
out teaching. But in this day and age where things are a little
more financially stretched, we need to think
about differentiation of mission of universities. The research-intensive
universities are ideally placed to make these major
breakthroughs in understanding the
challenges that face the world. We’re able to train the next
generation of research leaders, and we’re also able to interact
with industry and commerce in a very effective fashion. I think we need to think
about restructuring the models for universities in Britain. We have to perhaps think
about changing the way that they’re funded so that
research-intensive areas are protected, so that they can
make these contributions to the economy and
to the global system. We also have to perhaps
think about the way in which students are
trained in universities, recognising that we want to
broaden the mobility of students so that students perhaps can
migrate from one university where they’ve studied for a
couple of years, and then move to another university which
is more research-intensive, where their more advanced
studies might be most appropriately carried out. Britain’s research-intensive
universities carry out research, we do teaching.
But the research that we carry out is world-leading,
and the limited resources that we have available to support research
must now be concentrated so that we can recognise and support the world-leading
activities which we have in these half a dozen or
so universities in the UK, which really are at the pioneering age
of global discovery. Our research and our research
funding in Britain needs to be concentrated in order to maintain its world-leading
position. We must consider sharing
resources in Britain to make full use of the
intellectual capital that we have and the
investment that we’ve made into equipment and facilities. And therefore research-intensive
universities should also be seen as national centres
for collaboration so that we have a hub
and a spoke relationship; that there can be a number
of adjunct relationships between researchers in different
universities enjoying the full research activity and strength of the major multi-discipline
research centres. If the funding doesn’t come to the research-intensive
universities in the next few years, we’ll
lose the world-leading staff because we’re playing in a
globally competitive market. We’ll also fail to attract the
international students that come to Britain to study because
they know that a degree from a British university
is a mark of excellence because we are world-leading
universities. And so we would lose both the
capability in the United Kingdom for developing ideas and
implementing those ideas, and translating those
ideas into industry, as well as losing the advantage
of being an attraction for incoming international
students. So we really are now
at a crossroads. Britain can carry on
declining gently, I suppose, good researchers becoming
mediocre researchers as they get older and lose
responsibility and net funding, or we can have a transformation
in our funding environment and our research environment so
that we can sustain the jewels in the crown, we can sustain
the world-leading institutions that we have, and we can keep
Britain at the cutting edge of research and education
in this world.

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