Policy Update – October 2022

Sharon Witherspoon MBE FAcSS, Head of Policy, Academy of Social Sciences 

Newly appointed of Secretaries of State for Education and BEIS

The new Secretary of State for Education is Kit Malthouse. Andrea Jenkyns, appointed by Boris Johnson in July, remains in place with responsibility for post-16 skills, and ‘higher education quality’, while HE is also listed as a responsibility of the Secretary of State. So it looks like there might not be a dedicated Minister for Universities.  Meanwhile, the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech Bill) is still expected to become law before the current Parliamentary session ends.

The new BEIS Secretary of State, Jacob Rees-Mogg, is a strong advocate of reducing government spending.  Graham Stuart has been appointed as junior Minister for Climate.  At the time of writing, no Science Minister has been appointed.   The Lords Science and Technology Committee has written to the Prime Minister to express its concerns.

Changes to EU Horizon funding

Government has announced an extension of transition funding for EU Horizon projects through to end December 2021.  It is unlikely that the EU will permit affiliation to Horizon until the Northern Ireland Protocol issues are settled. The size of the ‘Plan B’ funding that would be needed if the UK were to attempt an independent programme to promote international collaboration would be large, and possibly entirely focussed on STEM science issues.

Developments in HE funding and OfS proposals for HEIs

It seems unlikely that there will be significant change to government policies on funding of HE, including student funding. Meanwhile, the Office for Students continues its plans to start regulating HEIs based on their continuation, graduation and employment rates of particular courses. OfS also plans a consultation on new regulatory expectations for access and participation in October; it expects universities to show more concrete progress in widening participation, including looking at ‘what works’.

Other developments

Chris Skidmore, the former Science and Universities Minister and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Environment Group has launched a rapid review to ensure the government’s 2050 net zero target is “pro-business” and “pro-growth”. The review was requested by government.  Social scientists will have an important role to play.

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