What? David Willetts, universities and science minister, recently announced the Government’s proposal to set up “a new type of university” focused on science, technology and post-graduate research.
So What? Bids are being encouraged from overseas universities, to create the privately financed research institutions. There will be no additional Government funding. This follows a similar initiative in New York, where Mayor Bloomberg successfully ran a competition in 2011 to create a new science post-graduate school.
By offering universities the ability to develop their own high-tech science and technology post-graduate schools, David Willetts hopes to ensure Britain will become the world's foremost hub of innovation and scientific advancement.
There has been some interesting comment from the big universities but none has firmly committed to the proposal. Ian Walmsley, a physicist and chief research officer at the University of Oxford, reportedly described the announcement as “tantalizing but enigmatic”. Stephen Caddick, a chemist in charge of the enterprise and strategy unit at University College London, reportedly called the proposal “not uninteresting”.
Given that all the funding for this new university/campus is likely to come from private science and technology companies, a top ten university in a major university city might be best placed to attract the backing needed. This is a positive step towards rebalancing the economy by developing an area that can offer long term growth and stability, therefore it will be interesting to see which university takes up the challenge.