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Academic contribution to economy needs to be rewarded not just praised, says UCU

18 July 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

UCU said today that the contribution universities and colleges make to the economy must be properly recognised.

A higher education and business report* out today reveals that more commercial research and a growing income from intellectual property 'underscores higher education's key role in the economy'.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Academics have always been at the cutting edge and this includes working with business. It is of course nice to be recognised for the contribution made to the economy, but it is all too rare that the hard work put in by staff in our universities and colleges is really appreciated.

'Our universities command respect the world over because of the expert level of teaching, research and support that staff provide, often against considerable obstacles and with inadequate resources.  In many cases staff stay in their jobs despite the fact they could be earning much higher salaries in other roles they are more than qualified to do.

'If we want to continue to be at the forefront of cutting-edge research and further develop intellectual property then we need proper investment and support. It is imperative that it is academics that lead any initiatives with business and that their freedom and right to initiate and challenge is not impeded by any commercial considerations.

'Institutions must make it quite clear that they hold academic freedom in the very highest regard and will not allow it to be compromised for financial or any other reason. What we need are clear guidelines that protect academic freedom and ensure that universities are seen to abide by the highest ethical standards.

'We must allow academics the time to properly develop their ideas. We must resist a fast food approach where research can and must be developed within a certain time frame. Imagine if DNA, for example, had not have been discovered because Crick and Watson were moved on for failing to come up with the goods within the timescales demanded by the Research Assessment Exercise.'

*Sally Hunt is commenting on the sixth Higher Education-Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) survey published jointly by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

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