Response to the Sainsbury Review

05 October 2007

Commenting on the Sainsbury Review, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director of The Russell Group, said:

"The Russell Group greatly welcomes the Sainsbury Review’s recognition of the crucial role that research- intensive universities play in the economy and the UK.

"We welcome the recognition of our internationally renowned research base, the importance of the supply of the highest quality STEM graduates into the economy, and the high quality of our knowledge-transfer activity including the growth of significant clusters of high-tech businesses growing up around our world-class research universities.

"The report recognises the extremely high standard of our research outputs showing that UK was ranked second in the world to the USA in its share of world publications (9 per cent) and world citations (12 per cent) and that the UK is a more consistent performer, ranking second in the world in seven of the ten disciplines.  We echo Lord Sainsbury’s call for continued support for our world class research-intensive universities to sustain this position and the recommendation that Government continues to fund increases in basic science and the routes to commercialisation.

"We strongly support the plan for a major campaign to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching in schools and improve information, advice and guidance to ensure students make informed decisions about their subject choices.  This is extremely important because of the considerable decline in the take up of STEM subjects at GCSE and A-level in the last decade particularly amongst state school students. The RG is happy to help with this campaign and build on the strong relationships that we have forged with schools and colleges to contribute to its success.

"We also welcome:

  • The government’s focus on further improving the existing supply of high quality STEM graduates, and in particular the decision to establish a HEFCE ‘Advisory Group on Graduate Supply and Demand’ to inform government, employers and students about demand for certain subjects, key graduate skills gaps, career opportunities, and returns in the graduate labour market.
  • The establishment of HEIF (in England) as a longer-term funding stream, as well as the move to formulaic funding. 
  • The strengthening and increase in the number of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) and their increased support from RDAs. We also support, in principle, the proposal of mini-KTPs.
  • The development of a new Technology Strategy Board with a focus on user-driven research.  We look forward to supporting the TSB.

"We understand the reasons for making a distinction in the report between ‘business-facing’ and world-class, research-intensive universities, but we do want to emphasise the scale and quality of the interaction between research-intensive universities and business – including SMEs. The HE-BCI survey clearly shows that 79% of HEIs whose contract research with SMEs was worth over £1M in 2003-4 were Russell Group institutions.

"Russell Group universities are at the forefront of interactions with business across a diverse range of indicators. We believe that it is in the interests of achieving the goals of Sainsbury Review that excellence in knowledge transfer and interaction between universities and business should be supported wherever it is found". 

Related case studies