Robbins Rebooted

28 August 2014

Commenting on the pamphlet Robbins Rebooted by Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills Liam Byrne, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

Robbins Rebooted is a thoughtful addition to the higher education debate.

“Liam Byrne is right to say the spending on research and development in the UK is too low as a proportion of GDP. This is something we have long argued and so we are eager to hear how prospective governments would prioritise increasing investment in this vital area for economic growth.

“He is also right to recommend lifting the limit on how much Higher Education Innovation Funding a university can receive - research has shown that every £1 of funding for the most research-intensive universities generates a further £13.30 of income. Lifting the cap will help target this limited resource on those universities which are best able to translate world-class research into economic and societal benefit to the UK. This and other support mechanisms for innovation, including ‘proof of concept’ funding need to be re-examined by the next government.

“However, whilst we agree that the limited amount of funding available for postgraduate study is a concern, we would urge caution on the idea of a single state-backed loan system for all postgraduate students. We fear that a single system would be unlikely to meet the needs of every student, may cut off funding opportunities already available and could be unaffordable for the taxpayer.

“It is also important not to lose sight of the fact that the fundamentals of the student finance system in England are working. In the face of significant public funding cuts, it has helped Russell Group universities in their commitment to providing a world-class education and it has supported all students, whatever their background, to access higher education. Given the tremendous benefits most graduates gain from their degrees, it is fair for them, as well as the taxpayer, to contribute towards the cost, when they can afford to do so. The problems associated with the new student finance system have largely been caused by the terms and conditions of repayment, which can be redressed.

“We would also argue that bursaries have a greater impact on increasing the participation in higher education of those from less affluent backgrounds than this pamphlet acknowledges. Evidence from our universities suggests financial support plays an important role in encouraging students from poorer backgrounds to come to our universities and to make the most of their time there.”

Notes to Editors

  1. Robbins Rebooted has been written by Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills, and is published by the Social Market Foundation.
  2. The report on the return on investment from Higher Education Innovation Funding was published in April 2015 by HEFCE and can be read here: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/media/hefce/content/pubs/indirreports/2014/keperformanceandtheimpactofheif/2014_keheifimpact.pdf#61

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