In his first contribution of the day Lord Bilimoria argues Higher Education institutions function well through their autonomy and their strength is based on their research capability. He concludes by stating that the autonomy of the research councils must be ensured and protected.
Higher Education and Research Bill
471A: Schedule 9, page 100, line 26, at end insert—
“( ) at least one member of the OfS Board with at least observer status.”
My Lords, I declare my interest as chancellor of the University of Birmingham and chair of the advisory board of the University of Cambridge Judge Business School. On that note, if I may boast, today the FT global rankings for the MBA came out and the Judge Business School rose from number 10 to number five in the world. This is a business school that has been around for only 26 years, compared with the Harvard Business School, which is over 100 years old. One of the reasons for that success is the excellence of research at a university like Cambridge.
The problem that is overlooked completely by the Bill is that we in this country carry out excellent research despite underfunding it compared with competitor countries. We spend 1.7% of GDP, compared with 2.8% in the USA and Germany. Our research councils, which are world-class and respected around the world, have been doing a great job as autonomous units. One of the main worries about the Bill in universities and research councils is the removal of the autonomy of these institutions. They function well thanks to that autonomy.
I support Amendment 490D from the noble Baroness, Lady Brown, and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, which would leave out the words “as UKRI may determine”. Under Clause 89, headed, “Exercise of functions by science and humanities Councils”, UKRI would have the right to determine what they do. This is absolutely wrong. Whatever the reasons the Government have given for having a layer like UKRI, many people—the noble Lord, Lord Rees, has argued well against it—have said it is completely not necessary and could be damaging to the whole sector. The analogy made was setting up a body to represent all the world-class museums in London, which are the best museums in the world. That would be completely unnecessary as they are doing a great job on their own. We have to ensure that the autonomy of the research councils is protected, whatever happens, even with the existence of this body called UKRI.