It’s genuinely all change everywhere at the moment… or at least on the cusp of potential change perhaps. Labour leadership, the McKinsey report and REF consultation delays are making for a rather pensive feeling across the HEI sector at the moment.
Before any of this we had just responded to the Nurse review of Research Councils, which followed very swiftly on from the publication of the triennial review of RCUK. As part of the consultation for the Nurse review, the underlying question was assumed to be “should we merge the councils?”. Reponses have therefore largely been very supportive of the disciplinary bases that the range of existing Research Councils offer, as well as providing an opportunity to show support for the dual support system in the UK.
But before Paul Nurse has been able to report, it emerged (two months after we discovered) that the McKinsey Group has been asked to review BIS; the home of RCUK and more broadly science funding. Oo-er. McKinsey have a background of making the case to slash to budgets. As a commissioned report, this is being turned around much more quickly than the Nurse review and with no formal consultation with stakeholders (that we have been invited to respond to).
Amongst all of this there are rumblings about the safety of QR (quality-related) funding for Universities. The Russell Group have been refreshing their support for the dual support system to Universities, demonstrating how valuable QR funding is to invest in emerging science and excellence. The delay in releasing the consultation for REF (on the basis that consultation should be fully informed with the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review due in November), only adds to the head-spinning potential of some pretty significant changes ahead.