Government opens review into cutting red tape in HE

Stakeholders from across the UK research sector are being asked to advise on the red tape preventing them from focusing on core work

The government has opened its long-mooted review into cutting red tape in higher education.

It was in July 2020 that the business secretary, Alok Sharma, unveiled the government’s Research and Development Roadmap to turn the UK into a “science superpower”, in part by reducing bureaucracy.

September saw universities minister, Michelle Donelan, speaking of the government’s intention to cut distractions from universities’ core teaching and research roles, and then, in March this year, it was announced that Professor Adam Tickell would lead a review of research bureaucracy.

“Ultimately, this should translate to making a real difference to the work of our research teams – that will be the true test of whether we have succeeded,” said Prof Tickell, vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex.

His team is in the process of holding evidence gathering meetings across the UK, as well as inviting written submissions from stakeholders across the UK research sector, on how to achieve a ‘substantial reduction in unnecessary research bureaucracy in government and the wider sector’.

Stressing that ‘the aim is to reduce bureaucracy, not move it to another part of the system’, the review team are seeking answers to such questions as:

  • What are the main sources of unnecessary bureaucracy that need to be considered?
  • What specific changes could bring the biggest reduction in unnecessary bureaucracy?
  • What would best help the application and post-award assurance processes?
  • What lessons can you share in identifying and bringing in improvements in efficiency?

The review is focusing primarily on higher education institutions and research organisations. Its success, says the government, may be measured by:

  • Resource spent on administering the grant system being proportionate and offering value for money
  • Significant reduction of unnecessary reporting and monitoring systems
  • Clear refocusing of remaining bureaucracy onto the highest priority areas

“The UK is home to some of the world’s leading scientists and researchers and their response to the coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on the vital need for them to be able to carry out their groundbreaking work at pace,” said science minister, Amanda Solloway, when the review was announced.

“This review will identify how we can free up our brightest minds from unnecessary red tape so they can continue making cutting-edge discoveries, while cementing UK’s status as a science superpower.”

Interim findings are due in the autumn and the full report is slated to be published early next year.

Interested parties should submit their responses by 1 October 2021, via either an online questionnaire or email.

In related news: Last month, the government launched a strategy to ‘put people at the heart of R&D’


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