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Universities research taskforce draws on large membership

Vice-chancellors and sector body leaders among those at first meeting of sustainability review group

Three vice-chancellors are among members of the government’s University Research Sustainability Taskforce, Research Professional News can reveal. The body met by teleconference for the first time on 12 May having been set up as part of the government’s response to a bailout plea for higher education.

The group is co-chaired by universities minister Michelle Donelan and science minister Amanda Solloway. University of Exeter vice-chancellor Steve Smith, outgoing University of Leeds vice-chancellor Alan Langlands and Swansea University boss Paul Boyle represent the views of higher education institutions on the taskforce. Langlands is also a former chief executive of the National Health Service and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The first meeting comes just eight days after the group was announced, indicating the pace at which Whitehall is working to address the funding issues in universities caused by the pandemic. Research Professional News understands that membership of future meetings will be flexible depending on the topic under discussion and that the work of the initial gathering was to identify issues to be tackled in the coming months.

Research Professional News understands other members include Universities UK chief executive Alistair Jarvis and Russell Group chief executive Tim Bradshaw (see below for full list).

On 4 May the government promised to bring forward £100 million in quality-related research funding and £2.6 billion in early tuition fee payments to help ease the financial pressure on universities during the coronavirus outbreak.

Ministers from all for countries of the UK are on the taskforce. As well as Donelan and Solloway, Scotland’s Richard Lochhead, minister for further education, higher education and science; education minister Kirsty Williams from the Welsh government; and Northern Ireland’s economy minister Dianne Dodds also sit on the taskforce, along with a number of officials from the devolved governments of the UK and senior civil servants from BEIS and the DfE.

List of members:

  • UK science minister Amanda Solloway
  • UK universities minister Michelle Donelan
  • Scottish government’s minister for further education, higher education and science Richard Lochhead
  • Welsh government’s education minister Kirsty Williams
  • Northern Irish government’s economy minister Dianne Dodds
  • Vitae chief executive Clare Viney
  • Universities UK chief executive Alistair Jarvis
  • Russell Group chief executive Tim Bradshaw
  • Royal Society chief executive Julie Maxton (representing the 4 Academies)
  • Office for Students chief executive Nicola Dandridge
  • Scottish Funding Council chief executive Karen Watt
  • Higher Education Funding Council for Wales chief executive David Blaney
  • Research England executive chair David Sweeney
  • UK Research and Innovation executive directors for strategy and governance Emma Lindsell and Isobel Stephen
  • University of Exeter vice-chancellor Steve Smith
  • University of Leeds vice-chancellor Alan Langlands
  • Swansea University vice-chancellor Paul Boyle