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Lord Nicholas Stern to chair national review of university research

Nicholas_Stern_140pProfessor Lord Nicholas Stern, Chair of LSE’s Grantham Research Institute, will lead a UK-wide review to ensure future university research funding is allocated more efficiently and linked to widespread public impact.

The review, announced today by Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson, follows the Government’s decision last month to protect the £4.7 billion science and research budget in real terms during this Parliament.

It will take forward the Research Excellence Framework (REF), the new system introduced in 2014 for assessing the quality of research carried out in 154 UK universities.

Responding to the announcement, Lord Stern said:

“Research assessment is a vital element in promoting the excellence of UK universities’ research, which we must continue to nurture. It is one of our country’s greatest assets and it is essential our research remains fit for purpose, is efficient, and carries the confidence of the UK research community.

“Research excellence must remain the central basis for allocating support and funding to universities and we will explore ways in which a simpler system for the REF might be developed,” Lord Stern said.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

“Lord Stern is a renowned academic with experience of working at the highest levels of government and I am delighted that he has agreed to lead this review. He and the members of the steering group will bring a valuable spectrum of expertise to the review.”

International benchmarking has shown that past research assessment exercises have improved the quality of UK research.

Lord Stern is expected to deliver his review of the REF to the government in the summer of 2016.

Notes to editors

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is an exercise that takes place every 5-6 years to assess the quality of research produced from UK universities.

The results of the REF are used by higher education funding bodies across the UK to inform the allocation of annual Quality-Related (QR) research funding to individual higher education institutions. This is the university block grant, which for English universities is allocated from the £4.7 billion science and research budget and amounted to £1.6 billion in 2015-16.

The remainder of the £4.7 billion science and research budget funds, for example, competitive grants awarded by the Research Councils.

Over 30 years the REF and its predecessors have driven a sustained improvement in the quality and productivity of the UK research base. Costs for undertaking REF2014 have been estimated at £246 million of which £232 million were costs to the HE sector.

16 December 2015