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CaSE responds to major shake-up in research and higher education

16 May 2016

Today the Government has published its White Paper, ‘Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice’.

The White Paper sets out changes to regulation in Higher Education, to recognition, reward and communication of quality teaching, and structural changes to the higher education, research and innovation landscape.

Commenting on the White Paper, CaSE Director Dr Sarah Main said:

“This is the biggest shake up to UK research since the 1960s when the research council system was established. At the same time, huge changes are proposed to the university system. With such a lot of change taking place at once, there are bound to be risks as well as opportunities. We must take great care that our astonishingly successful research and innovation system is unscarred by the changes and is able to flourish.”
“The Minister Jo Johnson has set out his rationale for changes to research as simplifying the system and allowing a more integrated approach to cross-cutting challenges. It is clear he has listened to the community and put in place protections for some of the valued principles on which the system operates which is welcome.”
“The UK’s higher education and research systems are envied by the world. The Minister has laid down a challenge for us to make them even better. How will we know if his changes have worked? I hope his emphasis on widening access to higher education will mean we see more people from all walks of life entering science and engineering careers. I hope we will see great teaching at universities, informed by thriving research and innovation. I hope we will see science and research become a strategic priority for Government at the highest level. As with any change, we will have to look out for early warning signs where elements of the new system may need to be fine tuned or addressed.”
“These changes could drive the science and research landscape for the next 50 years. If Government commits to its priority for science with significant investment, they could yield enormous prosperity and well being, addressing emerging challenges, creating innovations, discoveries and new businesses we can’t yet imagine.”


  • The White Paper sets out plans for new legislation including the creation of a new body, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), that will incorporate the functions of the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK, and HEFCE’s research funding functions, as well as the creation of the Office for Students.
  • Plans for new legislation also include cementing the dual support system in England, the distinctive focus and remit of UKRI’s constituent Councils, and a duty for OfS and UKRI to work together and share information so that both organisations have sufficient visibility of the overall health of the sector.
  • Following recommendations in the Nurse Review the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology (CST) will have refreshed terms of reference giving them responsibility for carrying out horizon scanning and periodical evaluation of what Government’s overarching priorities for science and technology should be.
  • The Science & Technology Act of 1965 created both the Science Research Council (SRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The Social Sciences Research Council was also founded in 1965. The Medical Research Council was founded in 1920.