Supplementary submission from UK Deans
of Science (UKDS)
1. The UK Deans of Science (UKDS) has members
in around 70 HE institutions that have significant science portfolios.
Our primary aim is to ensure the health of the science base of
the UK through the promotion and support of science and scientists
and of science research and science teaching in UK HEIs. We welcome
this extension of the Committee's inquiry as it reaches the very
"heart" of the matter.
2. It is understandable that the Government wants
to ensure that its investment in science leads to new products
and services, medical and other advances, and major exploitation
of intellectual property. We support the transfer of scientific
knowledge to business, industry and the wider community and in
particular in support of the UK economy during these challenging
3. This submission responds to three of
the questions raised by the Committee. In summary we would wish
to make the following points, which are further elaborated in
A "great debate" needs
to be conducted in as wide an arena as possible as to how best
to turn scientific invention into economic and social good and
whether the best way to achieve this is through central control
of the direction of scientific research and development (paragraph
It is not desirable to favour investment
in some areas of research to the exclusion of others. Over-direction
of the research agenda will fail to make the UK the country of
choice for the best researchers (paragraph 5).
Government should not dictate the
direction of research in universities. Any attempt to do so will
undermine their essential autonomy and does not accord with principles
of the Bologna Declaration (paragraph 6).
Universities are pursuing a range
of ways of interacting with business but best practice needs to
be identified and disseminated (paragraph 7).
Universities must retain their distinction
from businesses (paragraph 8).
4. The form of debate or consultation that
should take place and who should lead it
There are various meetings between small numbers
of members of the various stakeholders and occasionally a "consultation"
inspired by the Government or other organisation. We suggest a
different type of discussion where a large number of interested
parties (Government, universities, industry, even the financial
sector) meet face to face with a completely open agenda to consider:
Such a meeting would have enough talent to discuss
the real questionsif it is possible to pick winners; whether
or not the UK has a competitive advantage in particular fields;
whether it might be appropriate to favour specific areas of research
5. Whether it is desirable or necessary to
favour investment in some areas
Universities must be accountable for research
funding whether from Government or the many other organisations
that support their work. It is also right for universities to
work with business, to maximize the financial and social benefits
of their inventions and intellectual property and to encourage
staff to consider the appropriate application of their research.
However, we do not believe that the best way to nurture and support
research talent in our universities is for Government to prescribe
the areas that will be supported. Such a policy incorrectly assumes
that the outcomes of research can be predicteda non sequiturthat
no completely new areas of research are going to be discovered
and that breakthroughs can be predicated in advance even for the
most fuzzy, complex, multi/interdisciplinary problems. Over-direction
of the research agenda will drive the best researchers from the
UK and mean will fail to attract the best from around the world.
6. Potential implications for UK science and
engineering, higher education, industry and the economy
We note the request to limit this response to 1000
words, so make just one commentin respect of universities
and the Government's acceptance of the Bologna Process. The Process
has its roots in the Magna Charta Universitatum Europaeum (1988)
which was signed by Rectors of about 400 universities following
celebrations marking the 900th anniversary of the University of
Bologna. It states, inter alia:
The university is an autonomous
institution... its research and teaching must be morally and intellectually
independent of all political authority and economic power;
Freedom in research and training is
the fundamental principle of university life, and governments
and universities... must ensure respect for this fundamental requirement.
These expectations of the independence of universities
are explicitly referred to in the Bologna Declaration, signed
by the UK and 28 other countries in 1999, and the basis of the
Bologna Process. Any further dilution of the Haldane Principle
and the imposition of defined research agenda for universities
may put the UK outside the Bologna agreement and the European
Higher Education Area.
7. Universities are not all the same. They
increasingly pursue their own distinctive character but are distinct
from business and industry. There is an urgent need for business
and industry to identify with the strategy of a university they
wish to partner. Only then will agreements of mutual benefit be
achieved in a sustainable way.
8. Finally we agree strongly with sentiments
expressed in two contributions to the Secretary of State's Higher
Education Debate by two very prominent business leaders on the
role of universities:
"...the overarching purpose
of a university is to teach students to be excited by ideas, and
to develop the skills of observation and critical thinking to
enable them to develop new skills, fresh knowledge and sound judgement
throughout their lives, by themselves and for their own sakes"
(Marjorie Scardino, CE, Pearson plc)
"...universities have a distinct
and different role from companies and it would not be good value
to turn them into corporate look-alikes" (Sir John Chisholm,
Chair Qinetiq Group plc, Chair MRC).