Fighting fund banner


Report calls for university research overhaul

11 December 2014

UCU is today calling for a fundamental review of UK research. In a report released a week before this year's REF results, UCU says it wants to see a complete overhaul of research and development that goes beyond the planned operational review of the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The report, Seeing the bigger picture: The future of UK research and development, critiques the current funding model and outlines UCU's priorities for research in the next parliament. The union said the UK needs a vibrant publicly-funded research system in a similar vein to countries such as Germany and the US, who invest considerably more in research than the UK.

The UK has seen continuing underinvestment in research in recent years. UK universities have experienced a £467m real terms cut in public research funding since 2009, which is expected to grow to around £600m next year. The union backs calls by the business, innovation and skills select committee for the government to commit 3% of gross domestic product towards research and development spending by 2020.

The report calls for an examination of the current policy of concentrating research funding in a handful of universities. The union argues that the government must expand resources to more institutions, covering more diverse areas of research. In 2012-13, a quarter of the £1.9bn of research funding provided by taxpayers was allocated to five universities with 12 institutions receiving half of the total.

UCU is calling for prioritised investment in block grant funding for research, arguing that publicly-funded research allows academics to undertake more innovative research than through private funding. The union also wants to see an extension of the legal protection of academic freedom to all teaching and research staff in UK universities and colleges and an increase in the number of research council-funded studentships.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Government policy on research has been dominated by a conservative, piecemeal approach for too long. The UK risks falling further behind our competitors if we do not halt the growing gap between what they are putting into research and our investment.

'UCU has long called for a real terms increase in the research budget to bring the UK in line with other countries such as Germany and the US. A strong research base is important in fostering a prosperous economy and a healthy society, but requires ministers to take a long-term strategic approach to investment.'

Last updated: 26 March 2020