Public Research Organisations

The 162 UK HEIs, 80 % of which are located in England,[1] are the most important public research providers and the amount of research conducted by them has increased more or less steadily since 20 03.[2] Whilst there are a number of specialised HEIs, England, unlike the other two countries under scrutiny, no longer maintains a binary HEI system. The separation between vocational HEIs and universities was abolished in the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (FHEA). The HEI sector is rather heterogeneous with regards to student numbers, income and research-teaching focus.[3] Unlike many continental HEIs, English public HEIs ‘are legally independent entities and are classified [traditionally] as non-profit institutions’.[4] However, Privy-Council involvement is required for their creation[5] and government influence is asserted to a large extent through the public funding they receive. Despite officially being completely independent, English HEIs therefore, as Palfreyman puts it, ‘are in practice [...] closely Government-regulated via its Higher Education Funding Council “quango” and are depressingly weak in terms of asserting their potential independence’.[6]

Before the move towards privatisation during the Thatcher government, there were a variety of other public research organisations, especially in the field of military research.[7] Today there are only a limited number of other public institutions conducting research. Among them are research institutes in research councils which carry out 2.7 % of all research in the UK. All the remaining public research institutions together conduct just 4.6 % of all UK research.[8]

  • [1] Kelly et al. 2014, p. 7.
  • [2] Office for National Statistics 2016, Table 2.
  • [3] On HEIs in the UK see Scott 2009, p. 42 seq; Candemir and Meyer 2010, pp. 500, 505, 509seq; Zoontjes 2010, p. 123; Farrington and Palfreyman 2012, para 1.22; Universities UK 2012,p. 16; Kelly et al. 2014, p. 7 seq.
  • [4] Kelly et al. 2014, p. 8.
  • [5] This is supposed to change under the envisaged new legislation (BIS 2015, p. 66 seq; BIS2016 p. 29 seq, 38 seq).
  • [6] Palfreyman 2003.
  • [7] Candemir and Meyer 2010, p. 506.
  • [8] Office for National Statistics 2016, Table 1, p. 4 seq, 6.
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