Oliver O'Hanlon
27 August 2013

UK Policy Update - August 2013

Lord Adonis Growth Review 
Lord Adonis has been asked by Labour Party leader Ed Miliband to conduct an independent growth review,which will feed into the Labour Party’s developing growth and industrial strategy. The review will focus on a number of areas including: high growth companies and sectors; long-term investment and responsible capitalism; government machinery for growth including regional delivery and leadership; infrastructure; innovation and skills.

The Science Council has arranged a discussion meeting with Lord Adonis, to be held on Wednesday 6th November at Hodgkin Huxley House to consider these issues and feed into his review. Further details of the meeting will be announced in due course.

Schools and Education
The Department for Education published its response to consultation on reform of Level 3 vocational qualifications for 16-19 year olds.

The Department for Education and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have published a consultation document on‘Funding Reform for Apprenticeships in England’. The deadline for evidence submission is 1st October 2013.

The National Science Learning Centre has published a paper on ‘The future of STEM education’. Among its recommendations are the establishment of career pathways for teachers and school technicians; provision of high-qualify careers information in all schools and colleges; and improved recruitment and retention of specialist teachers.

Higher Education 
The Strategic Society Centre has published analysis of its investigation into young people’s attitudes to the cost of higher education. The research found that for more than one third of young people wanting to enter higher education were deterred by the rises in tuition fees and living expenses. This was most acute among young people from white, black Caribbean and mixed race backgrounds.

Sir Andrew Whitty’s initial findings of his Independent Review of Universities and Growth have been published. His initial findings state that universities and national organisations that support research and innovation need to be better aligned with Local Enterprise Partnerships and with small and medium sized businesses to utilise talent and know how to create regional growth.

Professor Madeleine Atkins, currently the Vice-Chancellor of Coventry University, has been appointed Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce). She will take over from Sir Alan Langlands in the autumn.

Hefce’s evaluation of the National HE STEM programme concluded that it had been “an effective and valuable contribution to the challenges facing the supply and diversity of STEM graduates in England and Wales”.

Skills and Careers 
The European Commission has drafted its final proposal for the European Professional Qualifications Directive. The proposals will see Member States voluntarily introduce a European Professional Card listing professionals’ skills enabling them to move easier across national borders. The proposals will also oblige professionals' home countries to do more to help them to obtain recognition abroad.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced at the CBI President’s dinner that the Cabinet Office will lead a comprehensive government review this summer into the employment, education and training provision available for 16 to 24-year-olds. The review will report in the autumn. Responsibility for youth strategy and policy will move from the Department for Education to the Cabinet Office and be led by Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published a consultation document on funding reforms to apprenticeships which were proposed in the Richard Review of Apprenticeships in November 2012.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published its automotive strategy, setting out a skills roadmap to 2020 which aims to build career awareness among young people (especially women), teachers and parents into automotive careers. The automotive industry will look at coordinating existing careers information, advice and guidance tools to encourage more young people to choose careers in the automotive sector. The strategy also states that the Department’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor John Perkins will report soon on engineering skills in the UK. As part of the strategy the Government and automotive industry will collectively invest £1billion over the next ten years in an Advanced Propulsion Centre to research, develop and commercialise the technologies for the vehicles of the future. The Technology Strategy Board will also provide £10million through a competition for research and development low carbon vehicle projects.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published its agricultural technologies strategy.Actions to be taken forward include the industry Leadership Council working with the Research Councils to identify the skills needed to support the agri-technology research base.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has announced that the Transport Systems Catapult Centre will be situated in Milton Keynes. The Centre will be funded by up to £50million years 5 years by the Technology Strategy Board and £100million from private enterprise research and development projects.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has published updated guidance for traineeships for 16 to 24 year olds. Traineeships are available to those aged 16-19 and qualified below Level 3 or 19-24 and have not yet achieved a full Level 2 qualification who employers believe have a reasonable chance of being ready for employment or an apprenticeship within six months of engaging in a traineeship.

A CBI report, ‘Tomorrow’s Growth: new routes to higher skills’ has called for careers information and advice in schools and colleges to give greater attention to vocational qualification routes and for the establishment of a vocational UCAS-style system. The report also advocates the expansion of apprenticeships and reforms to student finance to widen access to higher education.

Science and Industry 
The Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts announced £85 million investment from the Engineering and Physics Sciences Research Council, higher education institutions and industry partners for robotics and autonomous systems, advanced materials and grid-scale energy storage technologies.

Synthetic biology will receive £60million of Government funding, which includes £20 million to fund a new set of multidisciplinary research centres, £10 million seed fund for companies to commercialise research and £2 million to support training in synthetic biology.

The Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts outlined details of the government’s spending commitment to the UK health sector previously announced in June’s Spending Review. £93 million will be split between the Biomedical Catalyst, the National Biological Manufacturing Centre to be based in Darlington, and healthcare companies.

The House of Commons Science & Technology Select Committee published its report on the forensic science service. The Committee was concerned that the UK risked falling behind on the exploitation of new research, technologies and innovation in forensic science which could have negative consequences for the criminal justice system. The Committee also stated its lack of confidence that forensic science is receiving the attention it deserves at Ministerial level.

The Chemistry Growth Strategy Group report on a ‘Strategy for delivering chemistry-fuelled growth of the UK economy’ has called for more professionally accredited technicians and apprentices; training and qualifications that meet professionally verified standards; and strengthen higher level graduate, masters and postgraduate level training, accredited by professional organisations.

The Government has published its ‘Review of the Balance of Competencies between the UK and the EU in Health’. Respondents to the consultation stated that the current balance of competencies was broadly appropriate, although specific pieces of legislation such as the Working Time Directive were considered to be unhelpful to the UK economy.

Professor Rick Rylance has been reappointed Chief Executive and Deputy Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council.