Academic Funding

Recent speeches by UK Universities Minister on the Government’s vision for higher education

March 3, 2011 3999

The Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts MP, has made several key speeches recently setting out the Government’s views on the role of universities.

At Nottingham University last month, David Willetts stated that universities can improve social mobility without compromising their academic integrity: “The primary role of universities is to enrich our knowledge and understanding. That is the fundamental value of teaching and research. We will not compromise on that. You don’t usually become an academic to raise the national growth rate or to improve social mobility. But if universities are true to their academic mission, these other goals can be achieved as well.”

He addressed the issue of increased tuition fees, and why these need not deter young people from applying to university. And he concluded that social mobility is a shared responsibility – from early years onwards.

In a detailed speech last week to Universities UK, the minister reiterated that government policy is to create a simpler, more flexible system, where funding follows the choices that students make. David Willetts denied that the shift to student fees and loans means a loss of government support for universities. And he set out the Coalition’s thinking on how universities can plan ahead, without necessarily raising fees to the maximum.

And in a speech this week to the British Academy, the minister talked about the significance of arts, humanities and social sciences in the modern university. He addressed funding issues for teaching and research, and announced that the Government intends to proceed with the 2012 Birth Cohort Study – the first UK-wide cohort for whom information will be captured before birth and in the first year of life. He said: “Despite the tough times, we are committed to gathering vital data – in the truest sense of the word – and to making full use of Britain’s strengths in social science.”

There was a further announcement relating to the new Research Excellence Framework, which will include an extra weighting on impact. But the minister emphasised his view that scholarship is valuable in its own right, and not simply as a means to something else.

Do you agree with David Willetts on these fundamental issues about the role, purpose and funding of social sciences? Please feel free to add a comment, or start a debate in the Forum.

Related Articles

Why Social Science? Because It Can Help Contribute to AI That Benefits Society
Industry
May 28, 2024

Why Social Science? Because It Can Help Contribute to AI That Benefits Society

Read Now
Digital Scholarly Records are Facing New Risks
Research
May 21, 2024

Digital Scholarly Records are Facing New Risks

Read Now
New Fellowship for Community-Led Development Research of Latin America and the Caribbean Now Open
Academic Funding
May 14, 2024

New Fellowship for Community-Led Development Research of Latin America and the Caribbean Now Open

Read Now
The Long Arm of Criminality
Opinion
April 29, 2024

The Long Arm of Criminality

Read Now
Survey Suggests University Researchers Feel Powerless to Take Climate Change Action

Survey Suggests University Researchers Feel Powerless to Take Climate Change Action

To feel able to contribute to climate action, researchers say they need to know what actions to take, how their institutions will support them and space in their workloads to do it.

Read Now
Three Decades of Rural Health Research and a Bumper Crop of Insights from South Africa

Three Decades of Rural Health Research and a Bumper Crop of Insights from South Africa

A longitudinal research project project covering 31 villages in rural South Africa has led to groundbreaking research in many fields, including genomics, HIV/Aids, cardiovascular conditions and stroke, cognition and aging.

Read Now
Using Translational Research as a Model for Long-Term Impact

Using Translational Research as a Model for Long-Term Impact

Drawing on the findings of a workshop on making translational research design principles the norm for European research, Gabi Lombardo, Jonathan Deer, Anne-Charlotte Fauvel, Vicky Gardner and Lan Murdock discuss the characteristics of translational research, ways of supporting cross disciplinary collaboration, and the challenges and opportunities of adopting translational principles in the social sciences and humanities.

Read Now
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

2 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Vicki Bolton

It’s hard to disagree with what he says – it’s what he does that causes the trouble. It would be interesting to know whether he has an ideal figure in mind for the percentage of 18 year olds who should go to university…

Vicki Bolton

I’m almost relieved to find Willetts making statements I can get properly annoyed about… http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/01/david-willetts-feminism-lack-of-jobs