HC Deb 09 February 2004 vol 417 c1395W
Chris Grayling

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills whether it is his policy that Regional Development Agencies should have a statutory involvement in the provision of(a) higher education and (b) higher education research. [152702]

Alan Johnson

Regional Development Agencies' statutory purposes are: to further economic development and regeneration of their area, to promote business efficiency, investment and competitiveness in their area, to promote employment in their area, to enhance development and application of skills relevant to employment in their area, and to contribute to sustainable development in the UK.

The Future of Higher Education White Paper outlines the growing role that RDAs have in HE and other knowledge transfer programmes and in addition outlines the following proposals:

  • An enhanced role for the RDAs in matching supply and demand for higher education. RDAs already have a direct input into determining new higher education provision in their regions to ensure it meets regional priorities;
  • To involve RDAs further in the Aim Higher campaign, to help address regional needs for access to higher education;
  • To encourage RDAs to play a proactive role in developing the work of the New Technology Institutes (NTIs), including through funding; and
  • To ask RDAs to take responsibility for galvanising the business community to work harder to make best use of the opportunities offered by higher education; and to play a particular role in helping small and medium-sized enterprises articulate their needs, and make links with higher education.

Our research policy treats research as a national priority, and therefore funds the best research wherever it exists. The Higher Education Funding Council for England distributes research funding to universities by a formula according to the quality and volume of their research as measured in periodic Research Assessment Exercises. There is no explicit regional element in the formula and to introduce one might weaken our ability to compete in the international marketplace.

The RDAs are instrumental as drivers for regional growth and development, often in partnership with higher education institutions within their respective regions. This can involve supporting the research base within their region. However, this is a matter for the RDAs themselves to decide.