Universities vital to making UK a science superpower
– Dr Joanna Newman MBE FRSA is the Chief Executive and Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU)
Last week, plans to cement the UK as the world’s leading research and science superpower were set out by the government in the form of the Research and Development Roadmap.
This initiative aims to pursue ground-breaking research, attract global talent, and cut unnecessary red tape as part of a wider long-term plan to improve the UK for scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs to live, work and innovate, and will include a £300 million investment to upgrade scientific infrastructure.
As the Chief Executive and Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities – the world’s oldest network of universities, and an international organisation that represents over 500 institutions in the UK and across the globe – I, along with the wider organisation, welcome the UK Government’s investment with open arms.
With COVID-19 and Brexit transforming the landscape in Higher Education, this initiative stands as a show of faith in the UK’s universities, and their research departments more specifically.
UK universities play an ‘essential role’ in advancing scientific temper of the country
Universities in the UK have clearly demonstrated their essential role in delivering science Research and Development in society during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From cutting-edge medical science to supporting local communities, these institutions have shown the many ways they have an impact on society when it is needed most.
This key role of a university has arguably been overlooked in recent years, however the centrality of universities to this new agenda is clear, and so I see this as another opportunity to continue to strengthen the relationship between the government and universities throughout the UK.
With delayed international landmark summits on the horizon – a UK-chaired CHOGM and a critical COP26 among them – it is vital that the UK helps shore up R&D momentum, and supports the mobility of ideas and people, as well as injecting new evidence-based rigour to lead collaborative international action in the Commonwealth and beyond.
As host to the UK’s leading international scholarship and fellowship schemes, the ACU has long recognised and championed the life-changing opportunities afforded by investing in people and projects centred on research and international collaboration.
Scholarships focused on R&D can and will enhance the UK’s influence and diplomatic ability, increase trade and business links, and support development and prosperity in a time when it’s most needed.
The multiple track approach of the road map – in both attracting international students to UK universities and collaborating international research partnerships – is especially welcome at a time when international migration, particularly in the higher education sector, faces such large barriers.
Focusing on R&D should put universities in a central role, and so there is a lot to be welcomed in this document.
The role of universities, and higher education more broadly, must be recognised, highlighted and celebrated. As it is these organisations that are ultimately at the heart of realising the roadmap’s success.
Pic: Louis Reed