Responding to the Chancellor’s 2021 budget, University Alliance CEO Vanessa Wilson said:
“Today’s budget brought a welcome confirmation of the Government’s commitment to the UK being a science superpower; an ambition which will be supported by the review of R&D tax relief and super deduction to encourage investment into innovation, and much-needed visa reforms to attract the world’s super talent. The renewed commitment to expanding apprenticeship opportunities was also pleasing to see; as some of the largest providers of degree apprenticeships, Alliance universities look forward to delivering on this strategic agenda.
“Whilst the Levelling-up fund prospectus rightly acknowledges universities as stakeholders, we are concerned that they are not captured as delivery partners for the fund. R&D is also notably absent in the ambitions of the Levelling Up Fund, despite university R&D playing an already central role in local regeneration activity. The government should go further and utilise the existing regeneration infrastructure and activity supported by universities, and harness the power of R&D across the breadth of the research ecosystem, to support the wider levelling-up agenda.
“It is worrying that we are still lacking clarity on how the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will operate. With the new scheme not activated until 2022, we run the risk of a gap emerging between funding regimes and the programmes they support, resulting in people, infrastructure and relationships disappearing. This will put the projects and initiatives universities deliver in local areas across the nation at a huge risk, affecting individuals and livelihoods across the UK, at a time of growing economic challenges.
“Finally, the signalling of a continued freeze in the fee cap for universities is concerning. Universities would be better placed to support a recovery from this crisis if they had a secure funding settlement.”