Research & development

What would UCU like to see?

UCU has called for prioritised investment in block grant funding for research, arguing that publicly-funded research allows academics to undertake more innovative research than through private funding.

UCU also wants to see a real terms increase in the research budget to around 3% of GDP to bring the UK in line with other countries such as Germany and the US, as well as an increase in the number of research council-funded studentships.

A key objective of research policy is to strike a balance between, on the one hand, supporting research excellence, and, on the other, encouraging dynamism in the sector, allowing new subjects and centres to develop. We are concerned that the recent policy of increasing the concentration of funding in a small number of ‘leading’ institutions risks undermining the health and dynamism of the research base as whole, and reducing the capacity of some regions to undertake necessary research.

On postgraduate training we have called for an increase in the number of research council funded studentships and whilst we continue to press universities to take their role as employers of researchers seriously, UCU encourages the research councils to examine ways in which they could take action to facilitate rather than hinder the permanent employment of research staff on the appropriate academic grade.

UCU feels the time is right to consider a wide-ranging long-term review of research policy, with a broad membership base and opportunities for genuine consultation with staff, students and employers. Such a review should be undertaken by the next government at the earliest opportunity.

What is each party proposing?

Conservative Party

  • Ring fence the science budget and invest £6.9billion in UK research infrastructure up to 2021
  • Create additional research and development hubs or ‘catapult centres’
  • Postgraduate loan system for taught masters and PhD courses (under 30 year olds able apply for £10,000)

Rate these policies:
(141 votes. Average rating: 3.40 out of 10)

Green Party

  • Increase public spending on scientific research from 0.5% to 1.0% over ten years
  • Adequate government funding for research into major environmental issues such as climate change, pollution and bio-diversity loss
  • Ensure research is not controlled by large corporations

Rate these policies:
(184 votes. Average rating: 7.59 out of 10)

Labour Party

  • Pledged to introduce a ‘long-term funding policy for science and innovation’ to provide stability and continuity
  • Establish an independent National Infrastructure Commission to assess Britain’s infrastructure needs and hold government to account
  • Will support the current model of regional knowledge clusters, especially outside the South East

Rate these policies:
(145 votes. Average rating: 4.83 out of 10)

Liberal Democrats

  • Ring-fence science research budget and ensure that capital and revenue spending increase in line with inflation by 2020
  • Reinstate post-study work visas for STEM graduates who find graduate level employment within six months of completing their degree
  • Aim to double innovation and research spending, supported by greater public funding on a longer timescale
  • More ‘catapult centres’ and support for green innovations from the Green Investment Bank

Rate these policies:
(111 votes. Average rating: 4.65 out of 10)

Plaid Cymru

  • More support for university students of STEM subjects who remain in Wales to study
  • Develop a new manufacturing strategy for Wales to create skilled and high-value jobs through research, development and manufacturing
  • Work with universities to increase research capacity and funding, ensuring that Welsh universities get a fair share of UK-based research funding

Rate these policies:
(82 votes. Average rating: 4.91 out of 10)

Scottish National Party

  • Tax incentives for research and development
  • Establishment of a new ministerial led Innovation Forum and supporting the network of Innovation Centres,

Rate these policies:
(107 votes. Average rating: 4.40 out of 10)

UCU analysis

Science and research are seen as key to all the major parties, but there is little consensus about an increase in funding or specifics on long term visions. There is also little about arts and humanities research in any of the manifestos, although the Greens do flag the importance on humanities subjects, describing them as having been ‘endangered by a systematic denigration’ by both political parties and university administrations.

Whilst all the major parties are committed to continued funding for the science research budget, there is less in terms of specific funding announcements, although the Conservative have put forward a figure of £6.9billion and the Liberal Democrats have confirmed that the budget would be ring-fenced.

Labour have said they will introduce a ‘long term funding policy’ to enable companies and research institutes to succeed and the Green party have outlined plans to increase public spending on science research to 1% over the next ten years.

The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour have all pledged support for ‘catapult centres’ which have been set up across the UK to promote research and development collaboration, jointly funded by the public and private sector.

Rate these policies:
(Not yet rated)