Jo Johnson – 2018 Speech on Toby Young

Below is the text of the speech made by Jo Johnson, the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, on 8 January 2018.

The Office for Students came into being on 1 January and will be operational from April. It will put quality of teaching, student choice and value for money at the heart of what it does. It will be helped in that regard by a remarkably broad and strong board bringing together a wide range of talents and backgrounds, including vice-chancellors, graduate employers and legal and regulatory experts, as well as a student representative mandated by statute. The board also brings a diversity of views: its excellent chair, Sir Michael Barber, was a senior adviser to a former Labour Prime Minister; and several of its members have declared themselves to be past or present members of the Labour party. This is clearly not a body of Conservative stooges, but one that draws on talent wherever it can be found.

The Opposition have called this debate to discuss one of the board’s 15 members, Toby Young. They would have us believe that he is not qualified or suitable to be on the board. Yes, Mr Young is not a university insider, but a board made up only of university insiders would be hard pressed to provide the scrutiny and challenge to the sector that students and taxpayers deserve. Indeed, the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 requires the Secretary of State to have regard to the desirability of the board’s members having, between them, far wider experience, including experience of promoting choice for consumers and encouraging competition. Mr Young has real experience of both as the founder of the West London Free School, and now as director of the New Schools Network, helping parents around the country to set up schools of their own. That experience will be important to a new regulator that will be charged with creating a level playing field for high-quality new providers to offer degrees alongside established universities.

At the West London Free School, which Mr Young set up, 38.5% of children receive the pupil premium, and they have done better than the national average for those on the pupil premium this year and last. A parent-governor at the school described him this week as being

“committed to public education, academic excellence, and greater opportunities for kids from lower incomes”.

He has won praise for supporting diversity by making the school a safe and supportive place for LGBT+ students. He is also an eloquent advocate of free speech, a value that is intrinsic to successful universities and which the OFS has undertaken to uphold. He has served with credit on the board of the US-UK Fulbright Commission, where he has been a strong supporter of the commission’s work with the Sutton Trust to help disadvantaged young people to attend US universities. Indeed, the chair of the Fulbright Commission, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, described Mr Young as an effective, committed and energetic commissioner, saying that he had seen no evidence that any of Mr Young’s remarks had influenced him in despatching his duties as a commissioner.​

The hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler) has called today’s debate to discuss tweets and remarks, some of which go back to the 1980s. These were foolish and wrong, and do not reflect the values of the Government, but I am not aware that anything Toby Young has said in the past has been found to have breached our strong discrimination laws, which are among the toughest in the world. In future, of course, he will be bound to comply with the Equality Act 2010 when performing all his functions for the Office for Students. Regardless of the legal position, it is of course right that Mr Young has apologised unreservedly to the OFS board. It is also right that he has said that he regrets the comments and given an undertaking that the kind of remarks he made in the past will not be repeated. So be in no doubt that if he or any board member were to make these kinds of inappropriate comments in the future, they would be dismissed.

As the Prime Minister said yesterday, since these comments and tweets, Mr Young has been doing “exceedingly good work” in our education system, and it is for that reason that he is well placed to make a valuable contribution to the work of the board of the Office for Students, where he will continue to do much more to support the disadvantaged than so many of his armchair critics.

Jo Johnson – 2017 Speech on Free Speech in Universities

Below is the text of the speech made by Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, at the Limmud Conference held in Birmingham on 26 December 2017.

It is a pleasure to join you at the Limmud Festival. This is my first Limmud Festival, and it is a revelation for me: I did not fully realise what a remarkable gathering the conference is.

It is a banquet of ideas and discussion, a national institution for the community, and an international success story: since the first conference in Britain in 1980, it has been replicated by Jewish communities all over the world, from South Africa to New Zealand, and from Finland to Chile.

There is one thing in particular I find admirable about the Festival, and it sits at the heart of what I want to say today.

That is its focus on the free exchange of diverse, even conflicting views. There are few places where you can hear from a government minister and from Jon Lansman of Momentum, and from speakers on subjects ranging from Kafka to stand-up comedy to tech startups, all on the same platform.

This spirit of open, frank and rigorous discussion is refreshing and invigorating.

The liberal tradition

And, of course, this love of open debate represents just one of many contributions that Britain’s Jewish community has made to our country’s tradition of liberalism and openness.

As the historian Abigail Green has pointed out, the British liberal tradition owes a profound debt to so many members of the Jewish community.

To Isaiah Berlin, who helped to reinvent Western liberalism in the post-war era.

To Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International.

To Herscht Lauterpacht, one of the fathers of modern international law.

To Rosalind Franklin, the chemist whose work informs our current understanding of DNA.

To Herbert Samuel, the liberal politician and instigator of the Balfour Declaration, the 100th anniversary of which we celebrated in November.

And to countless others.

This is a tradition that is particularly important to me in my role as universities minister.

A university is the quintessential liberal institution. Not liberal in a narrow party political sense, but in the true liberal of free and rigorous inquiry, of liberty and of tolerance.

The liberal tradition is a noble and important one; but today it finds itself under threat. Liberal politics are under threat from national and populist parties around the world. Economic liberalism is under threat from those who turn to protectionism for quick-fix solutions to complex problems.

And the liberal tradition in universities faces challenges too.

Threats to freedom of speech

A particularly worrying challenge to universities as bastions of liberalism comes from the threat to legal free speech and to open debate on our campuses.

Our universities, rather like the Festival we are today, should be places that open minds not close them, where ideas can be freely challenged and prejudices exposed.

But in universities in America and increasingly in the United Kingdom, there are countervailing forces of censorship, where groups have sought to stifle those who do not agree with them in every way under the banner of “safe spaces” or “no-platforming”.

However well-intentioned, the proliferation of such safe spaces, the rise of no-platforming, the removal of ‘offensive’ books from libraries and the drawing up of ever more extensive lists of banned “trigger” words are undermining the principle of free speech in our universities.

Without that basic liberal principle, our universities will be compromised.

Spinoza, that forerunner of modern liberalism, said that intellectual freedom was “absolutely necessary for progress in science and the liberal arts”.

Indeed, in 1673 Spinoza refused a prestigious appointment as professor of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg, because the job offer came with a restriction on what he could say – a stipulation that he must “not insult the principles of the established religion”.

Shield young people from controversial opinions, views that challenge their most profoundly held beliefs or simply make them uncomfortable, and you are on the slippery slope that ends up with a society less able to make scientific breakthroughs, to be innovative and to resist injustice.

I am glad to say that, for the time being at least, censorship in our universities is the exception, not the rule.

A 2016 survey showed that 83% of students felt free to express views on campus. And I have been hearted by cases of students themselves standing in the way of attempts to restrict freedom of speech.

But this is no time for complacency.

Like me, you have no doubt read reports of examples of censorship, where groups have sought to stifle those who do not agree with them in every way under the banners of “safe spaces” or “no-platforming” in US, signs that it might be spreading to UK.

Campaigns and protests against events featuring prominent gay rights and feminist campaigners such as Peter Tatchell and Julie Bindel, and more recently the proposal by some students at Oxford’s Balliol College to deny the Christian Union a space at Fresher’s Fair are examples of the threat to legal free speech from those who would rather shut down debate altogether than to confront dissenting ideas or uncomfortable arguments.

That’s why the government is taking action now.

As part of our reforms to higher education, we have set up a new regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), which, as its name suggests, will regulate the university sector in a way that puts the interests of students first.

Created by the Higher Education & Research Act 2017, the OfS will come into being next week.

Promoting freedom of speech within the law will be at the heart of its approach to the regulation of our higher education system.

The OfS will go further than its predecessor in promoting freedom of speech.

In the Act, we extended the existing statutory duty on universities to secure free speech in the Education (No.2) Act 1986 so that it will apply to all providers of higher education registered with the OfS.

Furthermore, as a condition of registration with the new regulator, we are proposing that all universities benefitting from public money must demonstrate a clear commitment to free speech in their governance documents.

And the OfS will in turn use its regulatory powers to hold them to account for ensuring that lawful freedom of speech is upheld by their staff and students.

This is no authoritarian step.

Nor is it somehow the “opposite” of free speech, as has been suggested by Harriet Harman, whose Joint Committee on Human Rights is gathering evidence on freedom of speech in UK higher education.

On the contrary, it is simply Government playing its part in actively creating the conditions necessary for our universities to serve as the vibrant free-trading marketplaces for ideas that we need them to be.

What do we mean by universities as ‘marketplaces of ideas’? It means our universities enabling truth to emerge and the frontiers of knowledge to expand as a result of the competition of ideas in free, transparent public discourse.

Whether it’s Gallileo’s heretical rejection of geocentrism, Darwin’s godless theory of creation or the bravery of dissidents resisting oppression all over the world, history shows the right to disagree is the cornerstone of intellectual and political freedom.

I am pleased to say that this freedom is as important to the OfS’s new chairman, Sir Michael Barber, as it is to me.

In a recent article entitled “In Defence of Uncomfortable”, arguing that universities need to foster a climate of open inquiry in order to provide a truly valuable education, Michael pointed out that “Diversity of view and disagreement, is a vital ingredient of places of higher learning”.

While he hoped the OfS never has to intervene in a university in relation to freedom of speech, he undertook that, if it does, it will be to widen it rather than restrict it.

I’m confident freedom of speech in our universities has a bright future under the OfS.

But we will continue to watch the system carefully.

And I want to be clear about this: attempts to silence opinions that one disagrees with have no place in the English university system. Academics and students alike must not allow a culture to take hold where silence is preferable to a dissenting voice.

If we want our universities to thrive, we must defend the liberal values of freedom of speech and diversity of opinion on which they depend.

Freedom of speech within the law must prevail in our society, with only the narrowest necessary exceptions justified by specific countervailing public policies.

Standing firm against antisemitism on campus

One threat that you will be all too aware of comes from anti-semitism on campus. There is no doubt that for many Jewish students their experience at university is overwhelmingly positive.

However, the number of anti-semitic incidents in the UK, including in our universities, remains a cause for concern. Anti-semitic incidents, whether from the far right, or from a virulent far left strain, have included Holocaust denial leaflets distributed at Cambridge University and swastikas at Exeter University.

Last October, it was reported that police were called to University College London to quell a violent anti-Israel protest which left Jewish students barricaded in a room, after being told their safety could not be guaranteed if they left alone.

I am concerned that there has been a climate on campus in which fewer than half (49 per cent) of Jewish students surveyed said they would feel comfortable attending NUS events.

This is unacceptable.

I’m encouraged that the NUS’s new leadership, under Shakira Martin, has taken a more positive direction, including a partnership with the Union of Jewish Students and Holocaust Education Trust for a Holocaust education campaign. I hope this continues.

There is no place in our society – including within higher education – for hatred or any form of discrimination or racism such as anti-Semitism.

A racist and anti-semitic environment is by definition an illiberal one that is totally antithetical to the idea of a university in a free society.

Working together with universities, with bodies like Universities UK, and with campaigners such as Baroness Deech and Sir Eric Pickles, we are working to combat antisemitism on campus, and I believe we are making progress.

I have been working hard to tackle this.

In February I wrote to Universities UK, the representative body of the UK higher education sector, as well as to alternative providers, to ensure they had noted the Government’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.

At my request, this has been shared throughout the higher education sector.

It is essential that institutions must have robust procedures in place. I expect them to demonstrate how they will act quickly to investigate and address all allegations of hate crime, including allegations of anti-Semitism.

This is an integral part of ensuring they provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students and that students do not face discrimination, harassment or victimisation.

In June last year, at my request, Universities UK agreed to consider the issue of hate crime on campus on the basis of religion and belief as part of their Harassment Taskforce.

Its key recommendations to universities included the adoption of a zero tolerance approach to anti-semitism, training for staff on antisemitism and development of close ties between universities and local Jewish community leaders.

UUK has also published the first of their case studies looking at good practice at the sector on harassment and hate crime and I hope that institutions are aware, and making good use, of these.

To support this work, I asked the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) to prioritise working with Universities UK in 2017-2018 on these important issues.

And as a result, they have provided over £4m funding for projects to tackle harassment and hate crime. This includes £1.8m of funding for over 40 universities and colleges for projects which aim to tackle online harassment and hate.

But there is much more to do.

Universities cannot afford to be complacent about complying either with their duties to protect freedom of speech, or anything less than vigilant against hate speech (or other unlawful activity) masquerading as the exercise of the right to freedom of speech.

Both duties are vitally important to a civilised democratic society.

Jo Johnson – 2017 Speech on Higher Education

Below is the text of the speech made by Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, at the UUK annual conference on 7 September 2017.

Thank you for inviting me to join you again at the Universities UK (UUK) annual conference – I am particularly glad to have a chance to visit Brunel University, here in my brother’s wonderful Uxbridge constituency.

Much has happened in the world of UK Higher Education since I spoke at last year’s conference.

A General Election, of course, and I note that Uxbridge, like some other university seats, now has a rather smaller Conservative majority.

Sorry about that.

But happier milestones too, in the higher education reforms that we launched following the election before last, in 2015:

The Higher Education and Research Bill completed its journey through Parliament, passing into law on the last day before Parliament dissolved.
We published the first Teaching Excellence Framework, highlighting the quality of teaching and graduate outcomes throughout the system.
We announced in the Autumn Statement an additional £4.7bn funding for science, the biggest increase in public R&D funding since 1979
We charged the Migration Advisory Committee with the task of undertaking a very welcome review of the economic impact of international students
And we have great leadership in place for the two bodies that will drive our reforms, the Office for Students (OfS) and UK Research and Innovation, in Sir Michael Barber; Nicola Dandridge; Sir John Kingman; Sir Mark Walport
In all of these undertakings, I am profoundly grateful for the support, advice and cooperation I have received from UUK and its members.

The election may now be two months ago, but Higher Education remains in the political spotlight.

As Alistair Jarvis recently observed in his first speech as your new chief executive, UK universities are under intense scrutiny.

Student finance, of course, played a prominent role in the General Election campaign.

Since then, the question of whether universities are providing students with a fair deal has become ever more pressing. We all see it in the media; I hear it from constituents and parliamentary colleagues, and you I am sure hear it from your students.

Today, I would like to examine these criticisms and ideas, and discuss with you what you as sector leaders need to do to ensure it sustains public support.

Two critiques of Higher Education

Recent criticisms of higher education in the UK fall into two distinct camps: we might call them the Statists and the Pessimists.

The Statists direct their criticism at student finance. They argue that the most important thing we can do is to abolish tuition fees.   As I said in my recent speech to Reform in July, this belief is not just wrong; it is 180 degrees out. By sharing the costs of HE between students and taxpayers and consequently putting ourselves in a position in which we could remove student number controls, we have in fact started to transform access.

There is more to do to bridge a still yawning participation gap and we always keep the system under review to ensure it remains fair and effective, but young people from the most disadvantaged areas were 43 per cent more likely to go to university in 2016 than they were in 2009 and 52 per cent more likely to attend highly selective universities.

Make no mistake: if fees were abolished, we would soon see the reintroduction of student number controls. And the return of rationing demand for ‘free’ higher education would see the poorest and most disadvantaged would miss out.

Life chances would be irreparably damaged, social mobility thrown into reverse.

We’ve also seen before what full public funding means for our universities when they have to compete against other public spending priorities in annual budgeting rounds: dramatic fall in per student funding of the kind we saw in the UK in the decades before fees – when per-student resource fell by over 40 per cent.

This would lead to the humbling of currently world-class institutions, and widespread closures of departments and even whole universities.

And we’ve seen what this means for taxpayers, including those who have not had the chance to go to university, who have to pay in full for the cost of degrees that will increase the income of what, under a reimposed student numbers cap, will be an increasingly privileged cohort of students.

That is the Statist proposition – bad for social mobility, bad for university funding, bad for taxpayers.

The second group of critics, the Pessimists, have an altogether bleaker view of Higher Education.

They argue that university is inappropriate for many students, that student numbers should be significantly reduced and that students should pursue other types of post-18 education.

The pessimists’ desire to improve alternatives to university is laudable: indeed, it is a core goal of this government’s education policy.

That’s why we have instituted the Apprenticeship Levy, which will raise £2.8 billion to fund 3 million apprentices over a five year period

And it is why we are pushing ahead with an ambitious post-16 Skills Plan that will bring in the new T-level qualifications.

Post-18 education is not a zero-sum game, where to improve further education we must restrict and ration higher education to a privileged few; the Government’s aim is that both must be excellent, and that students should have reliable information to allow them to make the choice that is right for them.

But the Pessimists’ broader charge against Higher Education is weak.

The pursuit of knowledge is the hallmark of a civilized society and for many people a sufficient end for the higher education system in and of itself.

That said, we must accept that the transition from an elite to a mass system of higher education brings with it an expectation of a strong economic return too.

We must be vigilant for signs of diminishing returns from the expansion of the sector.

This government has no target for the proportion of young people it wants to see entering higher education – rather it wants the size of the sector determined by the needs of learners and the demands of employers for graduates with the skills acquired through higher education.

Indeed, as we invest in and improve other forms of post-18 education and training, we may well see that the percentage of 18 year olds choosing to go to university falls. This outcome should not in itself trouble us.

But it is true that we are today approaching the 50 per cent proportion of 18-30 year olds targeted by Labour 15 years ago and it is a good moment to pause to assess the evidence.

Overall, it is clear that the contribution higher education makes to individual lives and society today remains formidable and far-reaching and that limiting access to these benefits to a narrow elite would deprive thousands of young people routes into fulfilling careers.

Graduates on average have better paid jobs. They are more likely to be a source of innovation and growth. And they have both greater promotion prospects and a lower risk of unemployment.

The benefits to the individual of university study go beyond the financial. Graduates also enjoy better health, longer life expectancy, and higher levels of civic participation.

Some pessimists argue that the benefits graduates receive from higher education are being eroded as the sector has expanded. We monitor this exceptionally carefully.

In fact, even as the sector has grown and more young people have entered higher education, the direct wage benefits have endured. Graduates on average still enjoy a large wage premium, worth some £170,000 additional earnings over a lifetime for a man, and £250,000 for a woman.

Other pessimists accept the evidence that graduates enjoy higher average wages, but argue that these benefits have little to do with what students learn at university.

A university degree, they claim, acts as an expensive badge to show employers which young people are most likely to succeed, rather than providing training that improves graduates’ ability to do their jobs. (In the language of economists, they argue that the value of a university degree consists mainly of signalling.) The implication is that society as a whole would be just as productive with much less higher education and could spend money better elsewhere.

A range of evidence suggests the pessimists are wrong, and that economies with more university graduates enjoy higher rates of economic growth overall.

A recent LSE study examining 15,000 universities across 78 countries found that doubling the number of universities per capita increased GDP by over 4 per cent, with a significant part of the effect coming from the benefits of having more educated graduates in the workforce.

A study from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research showed that 20 per cent of UK economic growth over a two-decade period came from graduate skills accumulation, and that a 1 per cent increase in the share of the workforce with a degree raises long-run productivity growth by between 0.2 per cent and 0.5 per cent.

These productivity uplifts are a sign that university degrees provide a real economic benefit, not just a prestigious credential.

A third argument I hear from pessimists is that because our productivity as a country has stagnated even as numbers in higher education have increased, higher education cannot be economically useful; this is not infrequently cited as a knockout argument to justify the reimposition of student number controls.

The logical flaw in this argument is I hope clear: it ignores the myriad factors impacting national productivity and fails to make any assessment of how we would perform as an economy with fewer graduates.

If we took this argument seriously, we would cease investing in roads, rail and any form of infrastructure, or indeed in any other bit of our education system, on the grounds there has been no uplift in our productivity coinciding with it.

A patently absurd proposition.

The idea that higher education provides real and significant benefits is consistent with what we hear from employers across the country: that the economy of the future will continue to require graduates, and lots of them.

The steady rise in the level of formal qualifications held by those in employment does not simply reflect qualification inflation caused by large increases in the supply of graduates, as Pessimists maintain.

It is happening as a result of more fundamental changes in the occupational structure of the UK as a knowledge economy. Some 1.8 million new jobs will be created between 2014 and 2024, and 70% of them will be in the occupations most likely to employ graduates

What is more, international comparisons confirm we are on the right track.

Only 42 per cent of young people in the UK are expected to graduate from university in their lifetime, according to the OECD, which is lower than the average of 45 per cent, and significantly lower than Japan at 58 per cent, the US at 53 per cent and New Zealand at 58 per cent.

The idea that cutting numbers of people with higher levels of education is the route to a more competitive economy simply does not stand up to scrutiny.

A Realist take on HE: accountability & value for money

But if we take one thing away from the critics of the sector, it should be that now is no time for complacency. For the avoidance of any doubt, I am staunchly and unswervingly on your side.

But it’s my duty to tell you that legitimacy is at risk of draining away from a university system that may be excellent for a clear majority but nonetheless delivers poor or questionable outcomes for a significant minority.

I am deeply concerned that for a second year, the Higher Education Policy Institute Student Survey has shown more students in England (37 per cent) believing they have received poor value than good value (32 per cent).

This risk to the sector from poor value for money was disguised when fees were absorbed in general taxation but is now a clear danger at a time when each and every student and graduate is aware of the cost of fees and of repaying loans.

Universities must be honest with themselves about what they are offering and more willing to make the reforms necessary for its future success.

We must address the weaknesses wherever they are in the system. Dame Minouche Shafik, the new Director of the LSE, was right when she observed that “too many of the messages coming out of universities sound self-serving.”

This means taking urgent steps to ensure that a higher proportion of students feel their time and money was well invested.

If universities offer patchy teaching that does not seem to justify students’ fees or degrees courses that end up with significant numbers of graduates in non-graduate jobs, those critics who mistakenly call for big reductions in student numbers will feel the wind in their sails.

To rise to this challenge, universities must embrace accountability to their students and to the taxpayer, and show that they are providing excellent value for money.

Our HE reforms hold unis to account for outcomes & value for money
Holding universities to account for performance and value for money has been the key objective of the HE reforms we set out in the 2016 White Paper and enacted in this year’s Higher Education & Research Act – and it continues to guide our work as we launch the Office for Students and consult on the new regulatory framework.

I note that the recent report from UK 2020 that raised concerns about the university system was positive about HERA, but worried that its reforms would be watered down as they were implemented.

I’d like to take this opportunity to assure the authors – and the HE sector, and most importantly students – that no watering down will take place. An Order has been laid in Parliament bringing the OfS into existence three months ahead of schedule.

We will shortly be consulting on the new regulatory framework that will enable us to implement the Higher Education and Research Act in full.

With this in mind, I would like to discuss five particular measures we must take to make sure we are delivering all we can for students and for taxpayers.

The next phase of the TEF

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is an increasingly essential means of holding universities to account for the teaching and outcomes they deliver for students. That is why it is so central to our reforms.

The TEF is already transforming learning and teaching across the HE sector, with, for example, Imperial’s vice-provost for education describing it as a ‘godsend’ for teaching in our system.

I’m pleased UUK’s comprehensive survey of providers found that:

73% believe that TEF will raise the profile of teaching and learning in universities.

81% have undertaken additional investment in teaching, with almost half saying the TEF had influenced their decision to do so.

And there is general confidence that the overall process was fair.

I would like again to place on record my thanks to TEF Panel Chair, Chris Husbands, all the HEFCE staff involved, all the assessors and especially the student representatives, whose valuable role on TEF panels will continue.

Today, we are publishing a policy paper setting out the principal changes we are making as a result of the lessons learned exercise. We will be publishing the full document, alongside the updated TEF Specification, later this month.

We are making no changes to the overall approach, but we will be making a small number of refinements to ensure that excellence is fully recognised for all types of provider and student. These include:

Firstly, halving the weighting of the NSS metrics. The NSS remains an extremely valuable source of information, but the new weighting will give it a more proportionate place in the assessment.

Secondly, adapting the assessment procedure for providers with large numbers of part-time students so that we recognize excellent in part-time provision appropriately.

And thirdly, although benchmarking will remain at the heart of TEF assessment, we will be explicitly indicating where providers have very high or very low absolute values, and allowing this to inform initial hypotheses where there are no flags.

We are also introducing a number of important new supplementary metrics.

These include:

A new measure designed to tackle grade inflation.

A new measure designed to take account of student labour market outcomes based on the powerful LEO datasets.

Alongside this, as I announced in July, we will be moving ahead with the subject pilots, including the piloting of a new metric on weighted contact hours. As I’ve said before, the purpose of these pilots is not to test whether to proceed to subject assessment, but to determine how best to do so.

Together, these changes demonstrate that we are willing to listen to suggestions from the sector about genuine improvements, but at the same time we will not step back from robustly holding universities to account for the outcomes they deliver.

Grade Inflation

I mentioned that a new supplementary metric of the TEF would relate to grade inflation. I would like to focus on this important problem.

A degree is one of the most important investments most graduates will make in their lifetimes.

They rightly want hard work at university to be recognised and for their degree to be a currency that carries prestige and holds its value. At the same time, businesses need a degree classification system that will help them identify the best applicants for their firms.

There has been a significant increase in the proportion of people receiving firsts and 2:1 degrees over the past five years that cannot be explained by rising levels of attainment.

Grade inflation is tearing through English Higher Education.

On the face of it, the facts are shocking.

On average across the sector, there has been a threefold increase in the percentage of firsts since the mid-1990s.

In the last five years alone, HESA figures show the proportion of students who gained a first class degree has increased by over 40 per cent, with almost a quarter of students now securing the top grade, up from 17 per cent in 2011/12.

With a huge and fast-expanding 2.1 class, almost three-quarter of students now secure a first or upper second, compared to 66 per cent in 2011/12 and fewer than half in the mid-1990s.

This is a general phenomenon, but some institutions are seeing a more rapid degree inflation than others.

Over the summer, we read reports that several institutions had seen the proportion of their students securing top honours more than double between 2010/11 and 2015/16.

Meanwhile, five institutions have seen the proportion of top honours rise by at least 20 percentage points over the last five years, while 40 have seen at least a 10-point hike. Just seven institutions have lowered the proportion of firsts.

The Higher Education Academy has found that nearly half of institutions had changed their degree algorithms to “ensure that their students were not disadvantaged compared to those in other institutions”.

I made similar observations over two years ago, in my first speech to UUK, and I am disappointed that the sector seems to have made so little progress in tackling this urgent and continuing problem.

I understand that the incentives on individual providers to award more 2:1s and firsts are strong. That the proportion of ‘good degrees’ counts towards performance in league tables is a good example.

And I am aware that many employers use the 2:1/2:2 border as a cut-off, which also significantly increases the pressure on providers to minimise the numbers of 2:2s and below that they award.   The OfS will work with the sector to deliver a solution.

Unchecked, grade inflation will undermine the reputation of the entire UK HE sector, creating a dangerous impression of slipping standards, undermining the efforts of those who work hard for their qualifications and poorly serving the needs of employers.

Grade inflation can fuel disengagement on both sides – if students know that 80-90 per cent will get a 2:1 or first from a high-reputation provider, there is less incentive to work hard – and less incentive by the provider to focus on teaching.

The challenge then is clear: we need to stop grade inflation.

I promised in July 2015 that the TEF would evolve to include incentives for the sector to tackle degree inflation and ensure that hard-won qualifications hold their value. And this is what will now happen.

As a first step, the forthcoming Regulatory Framework consultation will propose that the OfS will analyse and routinely publish annual data on the number of degrees awarded at different classifications – at the sector and provider level, and the changes that occur over time – and the OfS will challenge providers to explain data that suggests that students’ degree classifications are being inflated.

This approach will, as I have said, be replicated in the Teaching Excellence Framework, which will include a new grade inflation metric that will recognize providers who are genuinely tackling grade inflation, and hold to account those who are not.

The TEF will therefore provide a counterweight to traditional ranking systems, some of which inadvertently encourage grade inflation by giving universities credit simply for the number of high-class degrees they award.

But it cannot fall to the OfS to solve the issue of grade inflation on its own – the sector itself has a clear responsibility to take ownership of this issue, and for driving forward developments to ensure that the interests of their students are, and remain, well protected.

At the very heart of this issue is a lack of sector-recognised minimum standards for all classifications of degrees. Although I have been clear that it is not for the OfS to attempt to develop new minimum standards for all classifications of degrees, I am equally clear that the sector itself has a responsibility to grip this issue.

So I am today calling on you to take swift action to define and agree sector recognised standards for all classifications of degrees – my challenge to the sector is to start that work now, and to reach sector wide agreement over the next 12 months.

Student Contracts

I have long believed that students deserve clear and accurate information about their course – including methods of assessment, expected workload, and contact hours – and information about how their fees will be spent.

We believe that universities can – and should – do more to make themselves accountable to students through the systematic use of the kind of student contracts already used in various forms by a number of institutions.

Guidance from the Competition and Markets Authority already sets out what information universities should provide in order to comply with consumer law. But it is only patchily observed across the system.

I want the OfS to play a central role in pressing institutions to comply with consumer law consistently across the sector. The aim is to embed in the system student contracts that are clear, quantifiable and fair.

We will therefore consult on making it a condition of joining the register of higher education providers that institutions clearly set out in this way how they will provide their courses so that there is full compliance with consumer law.

Accelerated Degrees

Providing excellent value for money also involves offering the right mode of study for every student.

Accelerated courses are a means of giving students the opportunity to study for a qualification over a shorter period of time by increasing the intensity of study. They compress equivalent content into at least one year less than a standard degree course, but lead to the same or equivalent higher education qualification.

Evidence suggests that accelerated degrees particularly appeal to those students who have not been attracted by the prospect of three years of higher education. They include mature students – for example, those wanting to re-train – and those simply keen for a more rapid route into the workplace.

Responses to our 2016 call for evidence on accelerated degree courses indicated high interest from HE providers: 73 per cent reported seeing a demand for such degrees from students or employers.

But only a small handful of providers currently offer accelerated degrees, across a too narrow range of subjects. This must change – and we will help the sector to deliver a wider range of high quality two-year degree programmes.

Providers responding to our call for evidence indicated current in-year tuition fee caps are a significant barrier to growth, as those wishing to offer accelerated courses can only charge two ‘standard’ years of fees for three years’ worth of tuition.

The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 includes powers to set the annual tuition fee cap – for accelerated courses only – at a higher level than their standard equivalent. This should incentivise more providers to offer accelerated courses, increasing choice for students.

Our intention is that the overall cost to students of accelerated courses will still be less than an equivalent standard course. Students on accelerated courses will incur living costs for fewer years, and HEI providers will charge the same or less in tuition fees.

I will shortly be launching a consultation on the best way to set and implement the new fee cap. We hope these changes will encourage many universities to launch high quality accelerated degree programmes, leading in turn to greater choice for students and better value.

VC Pay

Value for money is not just a function of the quality of education offered; it also requires universities to be good stewards of their resources.

No one in the room will be unaware of the prominence of the recent public debate over levels of vice-chancellor pay.

It is of course true that many of our universities are large and complex organisations, requiring highly skilled individuals to run them effectively. Some will be competing for managerial talent in a global market.

But it is important to remember that universities are generally still charities with a not for profit public service mission and that, when it comes to VC remuneration, finding the right benchmarks is essential.

I have heard in recent days one prominent VC noting she was paid less than footballers or bankers. If university managers want those kinds of wages, they are simply in the wrong business.

It’s not obvious that the remuneration of chief executives in the private sector is a useful guide either. This is not just because corporate governance arrangements have conspicuously failed to deliver proportionality in pay in the private sector but because the risk profiles are so different.

While universities do operate in a competitive market, they are unlike most businesses in their dependence on Government for funding.

No FTSE-350 business enjoys the certainty that the higher education system benefits from in knowing that it has an uncapped flow of new customers coming to it each and every year, bearing £9,000 vouchers from the Government.

So that’s why, although universities rightly enjoy autonomy, Government has a legitimate interest in questions around institutional efficiency, both in our role as stewards of the higher education system and as its most significant single funder.

I do not want to read about VC pay in the newspapers any more than you do.

These headlines raise fears that students’ fees are not being used efficiently and that governance processes, including but not limited to remuneration committees, are not working effectively.

This is why I have repeatedly urged the sector, through guidance to the regulator, to show restraint in levels of senior pay.

We need demonstrable action now to protect value for money for students and taxpayers in the future, to ensure that vice chancellor pay levels are fair and justified, and that governance arrangements around remuneration are up to date.

To this end, I am asking the Office for Students (OfS) to:

Introduce a new ongoing condition of registration requiring the governing bodies of [Approved and Approved (fee cap)] providers to publish the number of staff paid more than £100,000 per year and to provide a clear justification of the salaries of those paid more than £150,000 per annum.

Use its powers, which include monetary penalties, to take action if providers fail to meet these requirements.

Issue new guidance to help Higher Education providers meet these requirements.

Compile and publish data on the levels of HE senior staff remuneration beyond what is required under the registration condition, with a particular focus on protected characteristics such as gender and ethnicity

Use its power to investigate further the governance of an institution through assessments of management effectiveness, economy and efficiency where there are substantiated concerns.

I am also today calling on the sector to work through the Committee of University Chairs to develop and introduce their own Remuneration Code.

This should encourage greater independence of remuneration committees, the publication of the pay ratio of top to median staff pay, and explanations of top pay increases that are greater than increases in average pay.

In addition to this new Remuneration Code, leadership and restraint is key to public confidence. I am delighted to see that an example has been set in this respect by the OfS itself.

Without any suggestion on my part, and setting an example for the sector, the new Chief Executive of the OfS, Nicola Dandridge, and Chair, Sir Michael Barber, have chosen voluntarily to cut their own annual salary by 18 and 10 per cent, respectively, which equates to a combined reduction of more than £40,000.

This kind of leadership will be crucial to the credibility of the HE sector, and to our shared commitment to accountability and value for money.


To conclude, the university sector is under considerable public scrutiny.

Some critics focus on student finance, calling for the abolition of fees and a return to 100 per cent state funding; a route that no matter how well intentioned would, by bring about the reintroduction of number controls, be a huge backward step for access, to say nothing of its vast cost to the taxpayer and corrosive effect on the sustainability of university finances.

Others call explicitly for severe restrictions on student numbers, in the pessimistic belief that higher education provides little benefit for many students.

We can with confidence rebut these arguments, pointing to the significant benefits that graduates receive from their education, benefits which are not just financial but social and intellectual, and which accrue not just to students themselves but to the economy as a whole.

But even while we reject the arguments of the statists and the pessimists, we should welcome the scrutiny and embrace accountability.

This scrutiny is not going to go away.

The Higher Education and Research Act sets an entirely new regulatory framework for the HE sector, and marks the start of a new era.

We have the opportunity to build on the achievements of the last 25 years and create a high-quality, diverse, innovative, inclusive and sustainably funded HE system for the next generation.

It will be a system that embraces accountability and can confidently stand up to the most acute scrutiny. It could be the envy of the world.

It is vital that we address the concerns I have raised if we are to grasp that prize, so essential for the future of Britain.

Jo Johnson – 2016 Speech on International Scientific Solutions


Below is the text of the speech made by Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities and Science, in Manchester on 25 July 2016.

Manchester is a city of radical thinking, inspirational science and world-changing firsts.

It is excellent to be here today in one of the cradles of the industrial revolution. The city where, in 1948, the first computer with a stored programme and memory, nicknamed ‘Baby’, was developed at Manchester University.

And the birthplace of graphene, a revolutionary material, discovered by 2 scientists, who were born overseas and chose to make Britain their home.

Ladies and gentleman, this is an important moment for British science, as we contemplate our future beyond membership of the European Union.

Theresa May, in one of her first major speeches as Prime Minister, said she wanted the United Kingdom to formulate a new industrial strategy; and great British science, as one of our truly outstanding national assets and areas of comparative advantage, will surely be one of its main building-blocks.

The case for doing everything we can to build up our national strengths in science and innovation in a post-Brexit world is powerful.

And Manchester must play its full part.

I am pleased that Manchester and the East Cheshire region are undertaking one of the first science and innovation audits, focusing on their ‘core strength’ areas of health innovation and advanced materials; as well as the ‘fast growth opportunities’ around digital, energy, and industrial biotechnology.

You are leading the way in these audits, gathering the evidence needed to make quality decisions that will have a real impact.

And it is with this in mind I am pleased to be able to announce that the second call for expressions of interest for the next wave of science and innovation audits will be launched today.

Designed to map out local research, innovation and infrastructure strengths across the UK, these audits will help identify and build on the potential of every region across the country by making sure investment is properly targeted and uncovering opportunities for businesses to tap into.

Today, here at ESOF, we have an opportunity to remind ourselves that science is international; that we live in a world in which no border can be closed to science; that the UK plays a leading role in that global endeavour; and that scientific progress here or anywhere else hinges on the close partnerships that we forge.

It was impressive that the organisers of ESOF received 350 applications from scientists from the 4 corners of the globe to be given the opportunity to deliver scientific sessions during this conference in response to the overarching conference theme ‘Science as Revolution’.

I hope that the presentations and discussions in the 150 successful sessions over the coming 3 days allow for exploration and debate on the ways which science and technology are continuing to revolutionise the world around us.

Post-referendum priorities

You don’t need me to tell you that excellent science depends on excellent collaboration: sharing ideas, comparing notes, testing assumptions and, occasionally, disagreeing with each other.

This is why ‘openness’, as Commissioner Carlos Moedas has so eloquently explained, is such an important part of the equation.

And, I completely agree with his assessment that the strongest position to have, that benefits us all, is to be collaborative, outcome-focussed and global in our approach.

It is just over a month since the UK referendum, and the exact structure of the relationship that the UK has with the EU will require much detailed discussion. But I am absolutely clear that we will be more outward-looking than ever as a country. As the Prime Minister has said, leaving the EU does not mean leaving Europe or turning our backs on the world.

That’s why I am concerned by reports that UK participants are being asked not to lead or participate in Horizon 2020 project bids or are reluctant to apply for longer projects as they are not confident they will receive money due after the UK’s eventual departure from the EU.

It is worth remembering that in legal terms, nothing changed overnight following the referendum. The UK remains an EU member during the 2-year renegotiation period, with all the rights and obligations that derive from this.

EU students studying here, or looking to start in the autumn, remain eligible for student finance for the full duration of their courses. We remain fully open to scientists and researchers from across the EU. We hugely value the contribution of EU and international staff. And there are no immediate changes to their rights to live and work in the UK.

I would like to thank Commissioner Carlos Moedas and his colleagues in the European Commission for helping us to remind people of these facts.

Just as I welcome the statement by the League of European Research Universities that UK universities are, and will continue to be, indispensable collaborative partners; its decision to call upon those who review funding applications to see the engagement of UK partners as a desirable feature of projects, rather than a risk; and its commendable position that it is “completely inappropriate to respond to the referendum by taking decisions that punish UK researchers, or disrupt partnerships”.

Of course, I completely understand that Brexit inevitably poses new challenges for us all. The immediate concerns around movement of people and grant status, are understandable, they are the obvious things to worry about when collaborations can run for many years and individual careers depend on making the right decisions.

I recognise the demand for further clarity on these issues.

In the meantime, as the UK establishes its new position in the world, we will work with you to protect our research and innovation at this time of change.

And, forgive me, Carlos, but even on the continent of Europe, the EU is not the only game in town. Academic and research cooperation in Europe predates the EU by centuries, and the community of European academic institutions has always been much wider than the EU.

The UK will continue to play a leading role in major non-EU research collaborations that take place here – from CERN in Switzerland to the European Space Agency. Just this month we confirmed the UK’s application to become a full member of a major new particle accelerator, the European Spallation Source in Sweden.

Here in the UK, we have fundamental strengths on which we must now build.

First and foremost, we have a long established system that supports, and therefore attracts, the brightest minds, at all stages of their careers. We fund excellent science wherever it is found, and ensure there is the academic freedom – the support for the scientific temper – to tackle important scientific questions.

As a government, we recognise the contribution that our world-class research base makes to our economy and wellbeing, which is why we have committed to protect the science budget in real terms, and protect the funding that flows through Innovate UK in cash terms.

The new Prime Minister has already recognised this in a letter last week to Sir Paul Nurse, the Royal Society and the CBI, which reiterated the government’s manifesto and Spending Review pledges to protecting science and research funding in real terms. This clear personal commitment is hugely welcome.

Second, we have excellent scientific infrastructure here in the UK – in universities, in existing research institutes, such as the Medical research Council MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and in new institutes like ‘The Crick’ and ‘Royce’. This is backed by a manifesto commitment of £6.9 billion capital funding up to 2021 – that’s record levels of investment in new equipment, new laboratories and new research institutes.

Third, we have access to major research infrastructures across the world, such as the Large Hadron Collider, in which the UK plays a leading role. We are a major partner in building new infrastructure such as the Square Kilometre Array whose global headquarters will be based at Jodrell Bank; and in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which made the dramatic gravitational waves discovery. It was UK researchers, working with their counterparts, who made this discovery possible.

And we are also hugely successful at innovation – second in the latest Global Innovation Index and one of the most attractive countries in the OECD for international business research and development investment.

Newton Fund

And to add to these successes, we are now more ambitious than ever to build global research partnerships that not only put the UK at the forefront of international research on global challenges, but also support the economic development and social welfare of developing countries around the world.

The government’s Science and Innovation Network, through which 90 staff based in 31 countries around the world support work on global challenges such as antimicrobial resistance and climate change, exemplifies our global approach.

We have doubled our investment in the Newton Fund to £150 million per year by 2021, meaning a total UK investment of £735 million from 2014 to 2021. This is match-funded by developing countries we have identified as having the potential to become future science and innovation leaders and can benefit most from collaboration.

Extending the Newton Fund has provided a unique opportunity for UK scientists to work with partners around the world to address some of the biggest challenges of our time. And we are already seeing an impact. Since its launch, the Newton Fund has supported more than 420 awarded funded research projects on development topics including sustainable food production, urbanisation and antimicrobial resistance. Over 1,000 fellowships and placements were awarded in the first 2 years and around 1,750 researchers have made links between the UK and Newton partner countries.

We are also creating a new £1 million Newton Prize, starting next year. This will not be just a one off, but an annual prize – awarded for the best science or innovation projects that promote the economic development and social welfare of Newton partner countries or address the problems of poor people around the world.

By working together on bi-lateral and multi-lateral programmes with a research and innovation focus, the UK will build strong, sustainable, systemic relationships with partner countries. This will support the continued excellence of the UK research base and innovation ecosystem and act as a catalyst to unlock opportunities for wider collaboration and trade.

ESOF is a fantastic example of the international nature of collaboration – long may it continue. As I hope I have made clear today, the UK is, and will continue to be, a hub of global activity. And this government, now more than ever, will play its part in ensuring that the UK continues to be a place for great minds to come together from Europe and from all over the world to build knowledge, understanding and better solutions to our shared global challenge.

Jo Johnson – 2016 Speech on Global Science


Below is the text of the speech made by Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities and Science, at the Wellcome Trust in London on 30 June 2016.

It is a pleasure to be here at the Wellcome Trust. This living monument to medical research sits at the heart of one of the world’s greatest knowledge quarters.

It is a cluster that includes University College and its associated hospitals, the University of the Arts, the British Library, the Francis Crick and the Alan Turing Institutes and companies including Google and Facebook.

This ‘knowledge quarter’, like many others around the country, embodies so much that is special about the UK as a research and innovation powerhouse as we face new challenges and ever stronger global competition.

As the Prime Minister set out last Friday, the government will continue to take forward the important legislation that we set before Parliament in the Queen’s Speech.

So my focus today, as we look ahead to the passage of the Higher Education and Research Bill, is to reflect on what underpins our strengths as a knowledge economy – and the steps we are now taking, and must take, to preserve them into the future.

But first, a reflection on what the referendum result means for research and innovation in the UK.

I am only too aware of the many questions that will be in your minds following the vote last Thursday. The academic and business communities were strong voices for Remain during the referendum campaign – and I want to thank you all for the role that you played.

While it was not the outcome for which I and many of you campaigned, I accept this momentous decision by the British people and am committed to making it work.

Now is the time to focus on the future, and with an optimistic mindset. We must look for the positives, while we deal with the challenges.

Today is first an opportunity to remind ourselves that our economy is fundamentally strong and that UK research and innovation are world leading. And for me to give you my commitment to continue working with you to make the strongest possible case for higher education, research and innovation in the coming negotiation.

In legal terms, nothing changed overnight last Thursday. We remain an EU member during the 2-year renegotiation period, with all the rights and obligations that derive from this. EU students studying here, or looking to start in the autumn, remain eligible for student finance for the full duration of their courses. We remain fully open to scientists and researchers from across the EU. We hugely value the contribution of EU and international staff. And there are no immediate changes to their rights to live and work in the UK.

It is business as usual for Horizon 2020. I would be concerned about any discrimination against UK participants and am in close touch with Commissioner Moedas on these issues.

The UK also continues to lead in major non-EU research collaborations – from CERN in Switzerland to the European Space Agency. Just this month we confirmed the UK’s application to become a full member of a major new particle accelerator, the European Spallation Source in Sweden.

But the prospect of Brexit inevitably poses new challenges, at a time when research itself is becoming more collaborative, and more global.

Our task now is to chart a course that protects the UK’s status as a full-spectrum scientific power.

We have fundamental strengths on which we must now build.

First and foremost we have a long established system that supports, and therefore attracts, the brightest minds, at all stages of their careers. We fund excellent science wherever it is found, and ensure there is the freedom to tackle important scientific questions.

We recognise the talent pipeline is critical. So we are doing all we can to develop the next generation of researchers. This week we opened applications to our new Master’s loan. We are also developing for the first time a new Doctoral loan to complement existing Research Council funding. In this Parliament we will have utterly transformed the funding landscape for post-graduate study.

As a government we recognise the contribution that our world-class research base makes to our economy and wellbeing, which is why at the Spending Review we committed to protect the science budget in real terms, and protect the funding that flows through Innovate UK in cash terms. These commitments remain.

Second, we have excellent scientific infrastructure here in the UK – in universities, in existing research institutes, such as the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and in new institutes like ‘The Crick’ and ‘Royce’. This is backed by a manifesto commitment of £6.9 billion capital funding up to 2021 – that’s record levels of investment in new equipment, new laboratories and new research institutes.

Third, we have access to major research infrastructures across the world, such as the Large Hadron Collider, in which the UK plays a leading role. We are a major partner in building new infrastructure such as the Square Kilometre Array whose global headquarters will be based at Jodrell Bank; and in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which made the dramatic gravitational waves discovery. It was UK researchers, working with their counterparts, who made this discovery possible.

And we are hugely successful at innovation – second in the latest Global Innovation Index and one of the most attractive countries in the OECD for international business R&D investment. Only last week the prestigious MacRobert Award of the Royal Academy of Engineering was awarded to Blatchford, a global leader in the development of prosthetic limbs. They have integrated robotics into a prosthetic limb for above-knee amputations – it’s a masterpiece of engineering that combines advanced materials with cutting edge deployment of ICT. Advances such as this are now being celebrated in the first ever UK Robotics Week.

But, while we can be confident that our fundamentals are strong, we need to evaluate the consequences to UK science and innovation of leaving the EU. And ask why, following the decision to leave, it is even more necessary for us to implement the proposals in the White Paper and Bill, and deliver on our manifesto commitment to implement the Nurse review.

So let me deal with each of these in turn.

Europe and the world

There is no doubt that UK researchers and businesses do extremely well in EU research funding programmes. And we helped to shape the European Research Council in our own image, with its emphasis on peer review and funding excellence.

It is too early to say what a new settlement will look like and exactly what our relationship to successor framework programmes will be – but I am confident that we can continue to thrive.

The UK has been a centre of scholarship for more than eight centuries. Our universities were knowledge hubs long before the EU ever came into existence. We are already extremely connected with the rest of the world – in 2012 nearly half of articles by UK researchers were co-authored by at least one non-UK researcher, second only to France amongst other leading research nations. These connections will continue. Our position as a science superpower, held since the dawn of the Enlightenment, can be maintained.

But this will require a concerted effort from government, the research community and, importantly, from the new leadership of UK Research and Innovation, under John Kingman.

The role of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

I have no doubt that the formation of UKRI will provide indispensable support to our research and innovation leadership during this period of change in our relationship with the European Union. Now, more than ever, as these communities face new challenges, we need a strong and unified voice to represent your interests across government, across Europe and around the world.

We are outstanding at discovery science – and are getting much better at turning those discoveries into economic benefit – but we must do even better.

The government is already taking steps to strengthen the research and innovation landscape. We will shortly publish a new national innovation plan. We have already protected research funding. We have maintained innovation funding through Innovate UK, and the R&D Tax Credit is benefitting record numbers of businesses. We are also continuing to grow our Catapult network, where the very best of the UK’s businesses, scientists, clinicians and engineers work side-by-side. We are now developing a wider range of financial instruments to support innovative firms and better target public support.

But for every one of our successes, there are examples where UK scientific discovery has been developed off-shore, lost to a competitor, exploited elsewhere. We know the stories – from the early days of computing to pioneering imaging techniques such as medical ultrasound and CT scanning.

That’s why we need UKRI to strengthen our ability to spot technology trends and develop a much more strategic approach to research investment.

Increasingly, innovation is occurring at the intersection between scientific disciplines and technologies – such as between biology, materials and computer sciences in the development of medical prosthetics. This means that many of the major problems that we face require inter- and multi- disciplinary solutions. We see this in the impact case studies collected for the REF, the Research Excellence Framework. And we know that many of the world’s emerging scientific powers are not just growing their scientific capabilities, but they are increasingly investing in collaborative research that crosses traditional discipline boundaries and national borders.

Which brings us to the reasons that the government asked Sir Paul Nurse to conduct his review of the Research Councils. The Nurse Review powerfully made the case that while we are excellent at science, the collective research endeavour could be so much greater than the sum of its parts. It spelled out the gaps we need to fill:

– a lack of strategic join-up between the disciplines and between the research base and policy-makers;

– a fragmented approach to investment, that lacks the capability to address multi- and inter-disciplinary research as effectively as we might; and

– historic weakness at commercialisation, with a need for a smoother pathway for innovation.

We have also listened carefully to the NAO report which saw the need for a more joined-up and strategic approach to our science capital investments. We are investing in our research infrastructure on a record scale, but the NAO said that we should develop a more strategic process for identifying priorities and proposing projects, potentially through the integrated organisation recommended by Sir Paul Nurse.

That is why we are legislating to establish UKRI, which will include the Research Councils, Innovate UK and a new Council – Research England.

So what will UKRI accomplish?

First and foremost, it will serve as a single, overarching and protective funding body that operates at arm’s length from government and provides a strong voice for the research and innovation community. Now, more than ever, as these communities face a unique set of global challenges, we need a powerful voice to represent UK research and innovation on the world stage and ensure we maximise opportunities from all our global research collaborations.

Through UKRI, we have the promise of the best of both worlds – combining what works so well now, while ensuring we meet the challenges ahead.

But as well as a strong, strategic voice in UKRI, the Higher Education and Research Bill clearly sets out how Council leaders will retain their autonomy to fund the very best research and innovation activity, employ the best staff, and serve their individual discipline communities. They will continue to manage their specialist centres and institutes, as the Research Councils do now.

Whilst all staff will be employees of UKRI, recruitment and terms and conditions of staff in Councils and any associated institutes will be set by the Councils, in line with any flexibility granted by the government. And each UKRI Council will in the future enjoy greater freedom to develop their own delivery plans, working with their peers on the UKRI Board, at arm’s length from officials and at a further remove from ministers in Whitehall. This means a net gain in academic autonomy.

Second, UKRI will ensure we have more consistent mechanisms to shape a national research and innovation strategy, with members of the research and innovation community in the driving seat. In the last Parliament, we made an important move in this direction – with David Willett’s ‘Eight Great Technologies’ and the further development of cross-Research Council programmes. But the arrangements so far have been ad hoc and reliant on top down ministerial intervention, rather than bottom-up and organic direction-setting by the science community itself. We could clone David, so all future science ministers can be as wise and far-sighted as him. Or we could develop a capability – within UKRI – for the systematic development of the kind of research and innovation strategy that will help us to compete in the world for decades to come.

Through UKRI, we will have a national research and innovation strategy developed organically by the research and innovation community itself, helping to guide more than £6 billion in annual government investment and delivering greater coordination across the delivery plans of each of UKRI’s 9 autonomous Councils.

Each part of UKRI will be able to work seamlessly with the others, supported by strong central infrastructure and analytical capability.

The ability to work swiftly and strategically across disciplines will be critical to the new Global Challenges Research Fund. At present, it is not within the legal remit of any of the Research Councils to hold, manage or distribute the necessary multi- and inter-disciplinary grants from the Fund. Moving forward, we will be able to fund challenges directly through ‘common research funds’ in addition to government allocating budgets across different disciplines.

Our reforms will ensure that the £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund delivers the biggest bang for buck – strengthening the global impact of UK research.

Now, more than ever, it is time to show that Britain is outward-looking and engaged with these global challenges. And that’s why I am pleased today to be able to make a further announcement about how we are investing to support this work. We are creating a new £1 million Newton Prize, starting next year. This will not be just a one off, but an annual prize – awarded for the best science or innovation projects that promote the economic development and social welfare of Newton partner countries or address the problems of poor people around the world. It will be awarded by an independent Newton Prize Committee. And I am very pleased to announce that Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, has agreed to chair the Newton Prize Committee. Sir Venki brings a wealth of scientific and international experience and I am immensely grateful that he has agreed to do this.

Third, UKRI will have a remit that spans discovery through to commercialisation. Innovate UK will continue to focus on business-led innovation. It will continue to have a separate budget and serve the business community. But it will also have a clearer remit to help drive innovation from within the research base, aligning its innovation strategy with the Research Councils.

All of this will be underpinned by continued support for a sustainable, world class Higher Education sector. Research England will retain HEFCE’s research and knowledge exchange functions, including Higher Education Innovation Funding.

HEIF is an essential mechanism to support universities in effectively contributing to UK growth. Research England and the new Office for Students will act together to deliver HEIF, as an example of the joint working between the two bodies and their shared remit to support business-university collaboration.

And as I set out in a speech earlier this month, we are taking other steps to bring teaching and research closer together. Our proposals include provisions for joint working, cooperation and information sharing between the OfS and UKRI. An emphasis on working together will run through the leadership and management of both bodies, supported by a legal framework that will be sufficiently flexible to deal effectively with areas of shared interest.

I also want the REF and the TEF to be mutually reinforcing. We will ask institutions to consider how they promote research-led teaching in their TEF submissions; and I have asked Lord Stern, as part of his review of the REF, to consider the impact of excellent research on teaching. We look forward to hearing the results of his review shortly.

It will continue to be a matter for each of the devolved administrations to consider how to turn REF results into ‘dual support’ funding. We are working with them, and I was in Scotland earlier this week, to discuss the steps we can take to ensure UKRI works to fund excellent science across the UK, just as Research Councils do now. UKRI is just that: an integrated organisation with a remit to think and act strategically across the whole of the country.

The balance of funding between the Councils will ultimately be decided by ministers, as it always has been. But, with the formation of UKRI, we will have a new mechanism for the whole research and innovation community to determine its own priorities, and to advise ministers as to their view on the optimal budget allocations.

Conclusion: 5 tests

By preserving the strengths of our research base, and building capability for the future, we have a real opportunity to ensure we are truly leading the world in this new era of global science and innovation.

And with both the funding and the strategy in place, we have every reason to be optimistic.

But we in government will need to continue to work closely with the research and innovation communities as we adjust to the realities of a new relationship with the rest of Europe.

The country that inspired the steam engine, the double helix and the World Wide Web has no guaranteed pass to the scientific premier league in the next century, nor can protected funding alone guarantee success.

The nature of the next scientific breakthroughs is changing, and we must adapt with it.

Now, more than ever, and as the Parliamentary process moves forward in the months ahead, we must galvanise our national research and innovation effort, and make sure it is fit for the future.

I have 5 tests for the success of these reforms:

Are we training and attracting world-class scientists and engineers, who are in turn able to help shape a more cohesive national research and innovation strategy?

Do we have a strong national champion for research and innovation, able to make a case in government, with the public and around the world in support of UK science and in pursuit of international collaboration?

Are we fully exploiting economic opportunities from our research base, especially in new and emerging technologies, maintaining our reputation as a global innovation leader?

Are we effectively targeting our efforts at society’s biggest challenges, with the ability to support more multi- and inter-disciplinary research, and success at winning global recognition for UK-led breakthroughs?

And have we preserved for future generations the vital components of academic autonomy, made possible through the Haldane Principle and Dual Support, that underpin so much of what is great about UK academia?

We can pass these tests, and seize the opportunity – not just to preserve what already works well, but also to turn the challenges we now face to our advantage.

We must now work together to get this right. We have the chance both to maintain everything that is exceptional about UK research and innovation, and cement our unparalleled leadership in this new age of global science.

Jo Johnson – 2016 Statement on Business Department’s Future


Below is the text of the statement made by Jo Johnson, the Minister for Universities and Science, to the House of Commons on 26 May 2016.

Today the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has announced its decision to create a combined BIS headquarters and policy function in London to deliver a simpler, smaller Department that is more flexible and responsive to stakeholders and businesses by 2020. This involves basing all policy roles in London by 2018 and closing the St Paul’s Place office in Sheffield.

Everyone affected will be able to stay in post in their current location until January 2018 and if they choose to take up a post in London there will be financial assistance for travel available for the first three years.

Anyone choosing to leave will benefit from the best exit terms currently available in the civil service. The support package on offer will include money for re-skilling, career coaching, and time off to look for other jobs.

The executive board and ministerial team take the future of staff affected by this decision, and the contribution they have made, very seriously. We are aware this decision will directly affect people’s lives, livelihoods and families and it has therefore not been taken lightly. Support for staff has been and remains our priority.

This unanimous decision has been reached by the BIS executive board after the Department conducted a consultation with staff and with the departmental trade unions which closed on 2 May. Inevitably it has been a period of uncertainty for staff but the consultation period has enabled the executive board to reflect on its proposal, to hear from staff, to take into account the equality analysis, and to consider the alternative business models which have been put forward.

Following the recent spending review, BIS has set itself the target of becoming a more flexible and efficient Department, as well as reducing its cost to the taxpayer. We have committed to deliver reductions in the Department’s operating expenditure which equate to around £350 million by 2020. Savings of this magnitude can only be delivered by fundamentally changing the Department’s overall business model in a way that works for a smaller workforce with more streamlined structures in a demanding service and policy environment.

BIS 2020 is the transformation programme to deliver that new business model—creating a Department that is simpler, smaller, and better for users by 2020. As a transformation programme it is ambitious. It means reducing our operating costs and associated headcount by 30% to 40%; more than halving our 45 public bodies; and rationalising customer support, grant giving and digital service delivery. It also involves reducing our locations from around 80 sites to seven business centres plus a regional presence across the country. These business centres will each focus on a key area of business activity bringing together expertise and helping us to build our capability.

One of these business centres will be a combined BIS headquarters and policy function in London. Crucial to this decision was bringing together BIS’ policy capability which is currently dispersed across 14 offices, and locating it near Ministers, Parliament, and other Government Departments in Whitehall.

Over the course of this Parliament our policy function will reduce from around 2,000 roles to around 1,500 roles, reflecting the size of the Department’s pay bill on our operating expenditure. As we get smaller we need a simpler structure that allows staff to interact easily and to respond rapidly and flexibly to Ministers, Parliament and other stakeholders. Being more flexible, agile and re-deployable enables us to respond to the challenging demands of modern Government. The steel crisis is a recent example of where we have had to urgently re-deploy large numbers of staff to address an urgent priority.

Operating split site and split team working as we become smaller would put an increasing strain on our organisational effectiveness which is why the executive board has concluded that a combined headquarters and policy function is the most effective model to continue to serve Ministers and stakeholders flexibly, effectively and sustainably.

Jo Johnson – 2016 Speech on Franco-British Co-operation


Below is the text of the speech made by Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities and Science, at the French Ambassador’s Residence in London on 17 March 2016.

Prenez garde! Je vais parlez francais!

There is a debate raging in Europe. Both sides are entrenched, immovable. Families are divided, with brothers on different sides. The question is to stay with something imperfect but reformable, or to make a leap into the unknown. I’m talking, of course, about whether France should get rid of the circumflex!

It’s a pleasure to be invited to speak at today’s event. Francophonie week is a wonderful celebration of a beautiful language. From growing up in Uccle in Belgium, to my MBA at Fountainebleau, to my time working as a journalist at the Financial Times in Paris, where I was married and where my daughter was born at the Franco-British hospital, making an effort to speak French has always been an important part of my life.

This week you’re thinking about how the French language unites peoples from across the world. As Minister for Universities, Science and Innovation, I see how a shared scientific curiosity and desire to make things better plays a similar role in uniting our 2 cultures.

We work with France because it is a world leader in research and innovation. It is home to the world’s largest multidisciplinary research agency and it hosts international agencies and research organisations such as the ESA and OECD.

We’ve worked together in competitive funding projects such as Horizon 2020. Under Horizon 2020’s predecessor, there were 3,600 projects involving UK and French partners.

Indeed, France is the UK’s fourth most important international research partner and the UK is France’s third most important partner. Research collaborations between France and the UK from 2008 to 2012 had an 80% greater impact in terms of citations compared to the UK average.

This mutually advantageous collaboration is addressing challenges beyond just those that we face today. Last December France successfully led COP21 to think about how we tackle emerging threats to our environment. We are looking forward to working together closely on ‘mission innovation’ which seeks to continue to drive the good work done during that week.

Science and research is by no means the only area where we work together. Britain’s financial sector, central to our country’s prosperity, is also emblematic of our close and mutually beneficial relations. All of the main financial services firms have French staff at senior levels. Not least Xavier Rolet at the London Stock Exchange who has been CEO for the past 7 years.

Many French financial services firms found the UK fertile ground for their businesses. Companies like AXA, Societe Generale and BNP Paribas employ thousands of people here. And this isn’t just in the traditional home of London. AXA spread across Ipswich and Basingstoke and Societe Generale is in Cambridge, Manchester and Edinburgh.

As well as crucial talent and thousands of jobs, the EU is the UK’s biggest market for exports of financial services, generating a trade surplus of £20 billion – over a third of the UK’s trade surplus in financial services in 2013.

And we must remember that when London attracts capital from around the world, this is thanks to its position within the EU, and this success in turn benefits the EU. Like the French aerospace industry, financial services are a cutting edge industry in Europe. To put that in danger would be like risking New York or Honk Kong or one of the new centres emerging in developing countries. Weakening London would damage the whole of the EU.

The EU has clear benefits to our economy, to the City and to our science and our ability to protect against future global threats. Our desire to thrive in a modern knowledge economy unites our 2 countries. To do this, we need to be building relationships, not turning our back on them.

It’s clear that Britain will be safer, stronger and better off inside a reformed EU where France and UK can continue working together, whatever the future holds for the circumflex.

Jo Johnson – 2016 Speech on Science in the UK


Below is the text of the speech made by Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities and Science, at the Royal Institution in London on 27 January 2016.

It’s a pleasure to be speaking to the Campaign for Science and Engineering in this, your thirtieth year. That’s 30 years since Save British Science was formed. Three decades of campaigning on behalf of Britain’s science and engineering community. And 3 decades holding ministers like me to account!

You, like others, told us that science was vital. And we didn’t disagree on that point. We have a Chancellor who lives in lab coats and high-vis jackets and the Spending Review was the clearest signal yet that science and innovation sit at the very heart of this government’s economic plan. This evening, I want to start by setting out in a bit more detail what that science settlement means.

A world-leader in science and engineering

First though I want to throw your minds back to December 15 last year. I know where I was. Counting Tim Peake down to blast off at the Science Museum, along with 3,000 schoolchildren waving Union Flags, their young minds fired by the magic of space and the power of science.

It’s a phenomenon I’ve seen time and again, as I’ve travelled the country, learning about our extraordinary research base.

It’s been a privilege to break ground at brand new facilities, to open new labs, and to meet the Nobel prize winners and the research teams keeping British science on the map.

In Manchester, I held a jar of liquid graphene, a substance which promises to revolutionise materials and how we use them.

In Wales, I saw the 5 millionth Raspberry Pi roll off the production line. These tiny computers, made in a technology park west of Cardiff, are spreading the benefits of the digital revolution to the furthest parts of the globe.

And on board the Royal Research Ship Discovery, I announced the winning bidder for our brand new £200 million polar research ship. Tonne-for-tonne, the UK will soon have the most advanced floating research fleet of any country in the world.

Our global scientific impact far exceeds our size as a nation. With just 3.2% of the world’s R&D spend, the UK accounts for 16% of the most highly-cited research articles.

And we’ve overtaken the US to rank first among comparable research nations for field weighted citations impact.

Last night, over supper in Amsterdam at the Competitveness Council, I asked Bill Gates what his assessment was of the UK science base. We were sitting around a table, along with the Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, and the science ministers of a number of other EU countries.

Unfortunately, the Chatham House rules of the dinner prevent me from repeating his answer, but I can tell you this: it made me unbelievably proud of all the work you do.

Our scientists and engineers truly stand tall on the world’s stage. And this government wants the next generation – all the young people across the country who were watching Tim Peake leave Baikonur that day – to be in a position to build on your legacy.

A decade of protection for science

Because of the difficult decisions we have taken elsewhere in government spending, we have been able to prioritise investment in science and research.

The commitments from the Chancellor in the Spending Review could not have been clearer. We are protecting science resource funding in real terms, at its current level of £4.7 billion, for the rest of the Parliament. At the same time, we are investing in new scientific infrastructure on a record scale – delivering on the £6.9 billion science capital commitment in our manifesto.

That means total investment £30.4 billion to 2020, building on the protections for the science budget in the last Parliament. That’s a decade of protection, and a decade of sustained investment by this government. And all this in the context of significant savings in other areas of expenditure, a clear sign of the place of science in our decision-making.

Best place to innovate

A stable funding environment is a start, but it’s not the end of the process. I’m not the first Science Minister to urge closer partnerships between the research base and industry, or to call for greater efforts on collaboration.

Our universities are already extending their work with charities and industry. In 2013 to 2014, they earned nearly £4 billion from working with businesses and others, up 20% on 2010. And in last year’s productivity plan, we set out our ambition to increase this income to £5 billion per year by 2025.

This collaboration is important because innovation is a shared endeavour. As we set out in our manifesto, we want Britain to be the best place in Europe to innovate and we will be setting out the support the government will be providing to help innovative businesses to flourish in a national innovation plan.

Our R&D tax credit now supports 80% of all business investment in R&D. In 2013 to 2014 over 18,000 companies used the schemes, claiming a total of £1.75 billion. This is a 78% increase in the companies claiming tax credits and a 58% increase in funding provided against 2010 to 2011.

Of course, government does not create innovation; it’s the scientists and engineers, the designers and the entrepreneurs who make it happen. But government can be a catalyst. Currently, every £1 of government spending on research leverages an estimated additional £1.36 of private funding. And for every £1 spent by the government on R&D, private sector productivity rises by 20p per year in perpetuity.

Getting the business environment right is key. The fiscal incentives we provide for research is the government’s single biggest source of business R&D support.

But, as a country, we can’t stand still. Our international competitors are continuing to innovate and develop new ways to support firms.

We’re looking carefully at what our partners in France, Finland and the Netherlands are doing, ensuring we have a range of financial instruments to support innovation.

At the Spending Review, we committed to protect the funding we provide through Innovate UK over this Parliament. This will include up to £165 million per year through new innovation finance products. With this funding our innovation offer will now span grants through to new financial instruments. These will support innovation and ensure the taxpayer can share in the success new ventures.

Alongside the finance, we’re providing the essential innovation infrastructure to help bring businesses and the research base closer together. We’re not just protecting the Catapult network, but expanding the programme to support growth in the high-tech sectors where Britain excels.

Earlier this month, the Chancellor announced our first Catapult in Wales. This will focus on the compound semiconductors that will underpin the next-generation of advanced electronics.

This joins 10 other Catapults that span the life sciences, satellite applications, energy, digital industries and high-value manufacturing. The Catapults will receive total public and private investment in excess of £1.6 billion over their first 5 years of operation. This is shared infrastructure that businesses on their own simply could not afford – and yet another example of the way we are supporting collaboration across the research base.

Science budget allocations

While we’re building new infrastructure, we are also ensuring we get the best return on our investments.

Sir Paul Nurse set out his plan to bring together the 7 Research Councils under the banner of Research UK, and as the Chancellor confirmed in the Spending Review the government is now moving forward with these recommendations.

Many of you will want to know that we’re preserving what works well, and building a stronger base for the future.

We have made clear our commitment to retaining the dual support system and the Haldane principle. These are vital characteristics of our research base. They protect curiosity-driven research that has underpinned so many serendipitous discoveries, and they ensure scientists are in the driving seat when it comes to assessing specific projects.

But there is also an opportunity, as set out in the Nurse review:

– to free up scientific leadership to focus on the research

– to reduce the duplication between funding bodies

– to improve support for multi-disciplinary research

– and to respond much more effectively to major global challenges – such as Ebola .

We fully recognise the importance of retaining strong leadership in individual discipline areas, and that will remain. The idea set out in the Nurse review was “one university, multiple faculties”. We are also clear that any inclusion of Innovate UK as part of Research UK must be done in a way which protects the ring-fence and Innovate UK’s business-facing focus.

But as we protect science and research funding we must also ensure on behalf of the taxpayers that we’re getting best possible return on investment. The Nurse review is part of that, and I’m also grateful to Lord Sterne for agreeing to review the Research Excellence Framework. He will be looking carefully at how funding could be allocated more efficiently; offers greater rewards for excellent research; and reduces the administrative burden on institutions.

In the meantime, we are working with the Research Councils and other delivery partners to agree the detailed allocations of the science budget.

Our intention is to formally allocate budgets to individual funding bodies by mid-February. The whole research community will then have the opportunity to feed in to Research Council and Innovate UK delivery plans towards 2020.

Global challenges

In this round of allocations, we have a unique addition in the form of the Global Challenges Research Fund. That’s £1.5 billion extra for the science budget by 2021 – additional funding that will help us stay at the forefront of global research.

This is a unique opportunity for UK academics to work with partners around the world and at the same time to address some of the biggest challenges of our time – it’s an opportunity for a double win.

The additional funding is possible because of 2 commitments set out by this government: to protect science and to protect overseas development assistance.

This new Official Development Assistance funding will enable us to build on the success of the existing Newton Fund, which since its launch in April 2014 has already galvanised academic partnerships in 15 countries across 4 continents.

I am pleased to confirm the expansion of the Newton Fund to £150 million a year by 2021. This means a total Newton Fund investment of three-quarters of a billion pounds, in addition to the £1.5 billion for the Global Challenges Research Fund.

With this investment, we will ensure Britain remains a scientific powerhouse in the years to come.

‘STEM capital’

None of this would be possible without a healthy supply of talented young scientists and engineers.

There have been positive signs recently. Apprenticeship starts in engineering and manufacturing technologies shot up by 52% between 2010 and 2014. Last year saw a 30% increase in the number of young people studying computing at A-Level. And this year saw the number of acceptances for STEM undergraduate degrees jump 5% on last year.

But I know from personal experience that a lack of ‘science capital’ in a family can pass through the generations. One of the reasons I didn’t major in science is that I was clearly better at other subjects. But I strongly suspect there was another issue at play: members of my immediate family have scarcely a science O-Level to rub between them. My father’s strong view was that history, which I loved, was basically a subject you could do in the bath, and that the best thing by far and away was to study classics.

Tackling deficiencies in STEM capital is not a job for government alone. I am discussing with Nick Gibb, our brilliant schools minister, how we can best help pupils that lack ‘STEM capital’ and may need extra encouragement.

Bill Bryson, as ever, captured it well. Writing about his dissatisfaction with his own level of scientific knowledge, he remembered the school science books that seemed to “keep all of the good stuff secret”, making the contents “soberly unfathomable.”

We have come a long way in the last decade in mainstreaming science, thanks in no small part to stars such as Brian Cox and Jim Al-Khalili and the important work of organisations like Science Grrl.

But cracking this is a whole country effort, and there is much more to do.

Science and Discovery Centres around the country play an important role, offering schools and families a hands-on experience that brings science to life. So I’m pleased to announce that we are partnering with the Wellcome Trust to set up a £30 million Inspiring Science Capital Fund to support these centres for the rest of this Parliament. This will be a competitive fund that centres can bid into ensuring these hands-on experiences are accessible to young people to the end of the decade.

This fund complements our wider support for ‘STEM inspiration’ programmes, including the CREST awards, the National Science and Engineering competition and, of course, STEM Ambassadors, a network of 31,000 people from science, engineering and academia.

Indeed, we’re taking this so seriously Britain even has a STEM ambassador currently orbiting the earth!

Best in Europe, best in the world

So we have the investment, the infrastructure and the people.

But to keep our knowledge factories winning Nobel Prizes, and attracting the best minds, we need to recognise that research these days is rarely a solitary undertaking, or even a narrowly national one. It is about partnerships.

The scientists and engineers that I meet, and the innovative start-ups that spin out from their universities, are usually part of a wider international endeavour. Their work often demands intellect, insight and investment no one country could provide.

Around half of all UK research publications involve collaborations with other countries. Papers involving international collaboration have almost twice the citation impact of those produced by a single UK author. And EU countries are among our most crucial partners, representing nearly 50% of all our overseas collaborators .

Indeed, our links with Europe are deep and longstanding. Free movement of people makes it easier for our universities to attract the best talent, and for British students to spread their wings across the continent, as I was able to do as a student at institutions in France and Belgium. Over 125,000 EU students are studying at UK universities, and over 200,000 British students have ventured overseas on the Erasmus exchange programme (UUK). I want many more to have the opportunities to study overseas that I enjoyed.

European research funding is, in many ways, an example of how the EU can get it right. While applying for funds must become simpler, especially for smaller firms, the key thing is that we have successfully argued for research money only to flow to where the best science is done, regardless of geography, regardless of political pressure.

Because of the excellence of our research base, it is no surprise that the UK is one of the most successful players in EU research programmes. The UK received €7 billion under the last framework programme (2007 to 2013). That made us one of the largest beneficiaries of EU research funding. In this funding round, Horizon 2020, we have secured 15.4% of funds, behind only Germany on 16.5%, and with the second largest number of project participations.

Some will make the point that non-EU countries also benefit from EU Research programme – Norway, Turkey and Israel, for example. But there is a fundamental difference. While some non-EU countries are part of the European Research Area, and sit on the European Research Area Committee, they don’t get a seat at the table when the Ministerial Council or the Parliament are setting the rules or deciding the budgets. Even those international bodies, like the European Space Agency, which sit outside of the EU, benefit from close institutional links. Around 20% of ESA funding comes directly from EU space programmes.

Of course, we cannot be starry eyed. There is a real need for reform, and the Prime Minister is fighting hard to fix aspects of our EU membership that cause frustration to many people. We need protections for those outside the Eurozone. More focus on competitiveness, to help create jobs. We need to take Britain out of “ever closer union” with more power for our Parliament, and we need to control immigration – so that “freedom of movement”, as the Prime Minister has said, means freedom to work and study, not claim benefits.

No one doubts Britain could stay a science player outside of the EU – indeed some of our universities have been successful for longer than many of its member states have even existed. But the risks to valuable institutional partnerships, to flows of bright students and to a rich source of science funding mean the Leave campaign has serious questions to answer.

While there is nothing in our EU membership that limits our ability to work with other countries, the onus is now on those who want to leave the EU come what may to explain how they would sustain current levels of investment and collaboration under very different circumstances.

As science becomes more international, we should nurture partnerships, not reject them. In the end, the British people will decide whether we are safer, stronger and better off as part of the EU, but our future security as a knowledge economy hinges on this decision.


This willingness to embrace global collaboration has been a central pillar of Britain’s proud scientific legacy.

And this government has shown its commitment to extending that legacy well into the future.

The Spending Review confirmed a decade of investment in our science and research base.

We have the tools.

We have the people.

We have the ambition.

Together, we will make Britain the best place in the world for science, engineering and innovation.