In the new Tertiary Education and Research Bill, Welsh universities have highlighted the need to strengthen the strategic duties around research and innovation.
Universities Wales, which is the representative body of universities in Wales, has embraced progress made since the draft bill was shared last year, but identified research and innovation as areas that would benefit from further development.
Speaking at the children, young people and education committee, Professor Elizabeth Treasure, chair of Universities Wales, said: “We continue to welcome the broad aims of this legislation and we are pleased with the progress that has been made on a number of areas since the publication of the draft bill.
“However, we would strongly recommend strengthening the strategic duties in relation to research and innovation. This is going to be a large commission and research would be a relatively small part of the funding framework, so it’s crucial we strengthen the position of research and innovation in the duties.”
Research and innovation is seen as a key driver of success. It is absolutely central. For example, in the way it is driving skills development – Amanda Wilkinson, Universities Wales
The need for strengthening these areas resulted from a recognition of the link between research, innovation and future skills development.
Amanda Wilkinson, director of Universities Wales, said: “Part of the reason for a specific duty is the role we expect research and innovation to play in the future, in terms of the economy and society. Research and innovation is seen as a key driver of success. It is absolutely central. For example, in the way it is driving skills development.
“That could be one of the real benefits we get from the commission.”
Institutional autonomy and academic freedom were also discussed at the committee.
Maxine Penlington OBE, on behalf of the chairs of Universities Wales, said: “Much research is about the invention of new knowledge that comes from exploration and can’t be predicted. It leads to discoveries in 10 to 20 years’ time of huge benefit to the country… but this can’t be predicted. There must be an element of research that allows for the exploration of new knowledge.”
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