The HE White Paper: creation of an overarching funding body

The UK government’s white paper ’Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice’ on higher education has proposed the creation of an overarching funding body, UK Research and Innovation that will disburse quality-related funding to English universities.

It proposes the creation of a single funding body that would be divided into nine councils—the existing seven research councils, Innovate UK and a new council, Research England. This would be entrusted with the administration of QR funding for English universities.

The proposal means the end of the practice whereby the UK’s public research funding is distributed by two different bodies, acting independently of each other. However, the government says it is committed to maintaining the identities, delegated budgets and autonomy of the research councils and Innovate UK. The key points for research from the White Paper are set out below:

  • The White Paper has confirmed that the seven existing research councils, Innovate UK and the research and innovation functions of HEFCE will brought under one body- UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
  • UKRI aims to focus on multi-and inter-disciplinary research, enabling effective and rapid response to future challenges. The different functions being brought under the one body aims to facilitate the sharing of expertise and best practice to improve decision making within the UK.
  • UKRI will have a combined budget of £6 billion.
  • The government recognises the unique nature of Innovate UK and has highlighted that it will remain a separate council within UKRI.
  • The Secretary of State will appoint UKRI’s board members which will be supported by a central team of staff.
  • The government maintains its commitment to the Haldane principle.
  • The Secretary of State will set the budgets for each of the 9 councils through the annual grant letter.
  • The dual support system will continue with the continuation of hypothecation for the two funding streams.
  • The UKRI will work closely with the new Office for Students to ensure a strategic approach to the funding of research and teaching.
  • Future legislation will ensure that OFS and UKRI will share information and data.