Westminster Higher Education Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Priorities for reducing the bureaucratic burden in Higher Education

Morning, Tuesday, 20th April 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference which focuses on moves to reduce bureaucratic burdens on higher education and research and development activities

It take place with the issues having emerged as a priority for policy and the sector in the context of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The conference will be an opportunity for stakeholders and key policymakers to discuss priorities as the DfE and BEIS announce a major drive bearing down on administrative burdens, with the OfS, UKRI and the National Institute for Health Research examining their procedures.

The agenda:

  • The impact of bureaucracy on research and innovation - and latest thinking on how it can be reduced
  • Reducing administrative burdens on research and innovation - funding application processes, rigour and measuring outcomes, and implications for research culture and wellbeing
  • Learning from streamlining and collaboration in health research during the pandemic - opportunities for the future
  • Priorities for the National Student Survey
  • Next steps for the use of metrics and data in the higher education and research:
    • What responsible use of research metrics looks like and how it can be fostered
    • The impact of administrative reform on the development and application of metrics in key higher education frameworks
  • Regulation and bureaucracy in HE - options for radical reform of the system
  • Reform and the contribution to driving up standards, the vitality of the HE sector and wider national policy aims - the way forward for efficiency and productivity, HE governance, and the sector’s role in local and national recovery

A scan of relevant developments:

  • Reducing bureaucratic burden in research, innovation and higher education - government plans including the immediate reduction of reporting requirements in some areas and asking OfS, UKRI and NIHR to review their reporting and administrative processes in the coming months
  • departmental and other initiatives for reducing bureaucracy, including:
    • Consultation on regulating quality and standards in higher education - by the OfS, including on managing the burden on providers while still conducting effective regulatory monitoring
    • Data Futures - a review of the programme led by HESA and JISC, including the timing intervals for gathering data from providers
    • TRAC for Teaching - a review of seeking to reduce its burden on providers and improve its effectiveness
    • the National Student Survey - a review, described as root and branch

Key areas for discussion:

Reducing bureaucracy in research and innovation

  • the response to COVID-19 - what can be learned from the extensive international streamlining of research and the sharing of research data as part of the global collaborative research effort to find a vaccine, and to respond to its social and economic impact
  • policy developments - examining recent measures for improving the efficiency of research and innovation, and remaining priorities for reducing bureaucracy in research and innovation
  • UKRI’s plans and priorities - assessing measures introduced by UKRI during the rapid response to the pandemic for reducing bureaucracy in research, and plans going forward:
    • research funding - simplifying the selection process, including a move to a streamlined, two-stage application process for standard grant rounds
    • outcome monitoring - reviewing the approach to ensure it is minimally demanding and to reduce the number of questions for mandatory reporting
    • tackling duplication - integrating existing datasets and stopping requests for data that is already available elsewhere
    • effectiveness and scope - how stakeholders can work, together and with UKRI, to produce plans that:
      • lead to tangible, system-wide de-bureaucratisation
      • do not hinder the gathering of data for promoting diversity, equality and inclusivity across research and innovation
  • health research - priorities for the NIHR in formulating plans to reduce bureaucratic burden in health and social care
  • open access - its role in the wider drive to reduce bureaucracy in research, with the Government’s recommendation for the sector to embrace the potential of open research practices, and with UKRI currently reviewing and developing its open access policy

The use of metrics and data in HE

  • key frameworks - the KEF, TEF, REF, and the NSS:
    • present position and next steps - assessing the development and application of metrics in higher education, and ways that bureaucracy may be reduced in their application
    • implications - what different options for change to the use of data and metrics in the higher education sector would mean for key frameworks
    • data use - reducing bureaucratic impacts on the wider sector of less readily measured metrics in research and teaching excellence, student satisfaction and quality of knowledge exchange
  • departmental initiatives - looking at development and implementation of bureaucracy reduction through the DfE and BEIS, including OfS monitoring and the Data Futures and TRAC(T) reviews
  • the NSS - policy priorities for reform that avoid creating excessive administrative activity or undue influence on outcomes in the areas of:
    • accurate measurements of quality in higher education institutions
    • encouraging the delivery of rigorous and intellectually challenging courses that prepare students for the modern workplace
  • further options for change - possible implications of the recent drive towards reducing bureaucracy on longer-term strategies around data in the sector, with the OfS Data Strategy seeking to shape ways ahead for the OfS extending beyond 2021

The link with economic recovery and wider policy

  • efficiency and productivity - initiatives such as the UK Productivity Institute at the University of Manchester and the contribution of reducing bureaucracy to the sector’s financial recovery
  • the higher education restructuring regime - potential impact of its focus on reduced bureaucracy on supporting a strong and sustainable higher education sector, through encouraging providers to re-consider the costs of internal administrative activities and funding decisions, including:
    • measures through funding and other means to encourage student unions to serve the widest needs of the student population and reassess priorities
    • reviewing levels of senior executive pay
    • broader options for managing spending on university administration
  • universities in their communities - the future role of the higher education sector in the wider educational landscape and in local and regional economies, and the contribution to national recovery
  • governance - thinking on new approaches and ways to foster resilience and agility in the sector to address potential future challenges

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Intellectual Property Office.

Overall, we expect further speakers and other delegates to be an informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government officials officials from DfE, DHSC, BEIS and other Government departments and agencies, together with senior representatives from universities and industry; academics and other higher education professionals; businesses and their advisors; research charities, councils and funders; publishers; local authorities; think tanks and research institutes, along with commentators and reporters from the national and trade media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Paul Gemmill

Portfolio Director, Reforming our Business, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

Dr Kay Pattison

Head of Research Contracting, Department of Health and Social Care

Emma Maskell

Head of Student Engagement and Information, Office for Students


Daniel Zeichner MP

Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Universities


Professor Richard Catlow

Foreign Secretary and Vice President, Royal Society

Matthew McCallum

Faculty Research Strategy Manager, Newcastle University and Director of Member Engagement, Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA)

Fariba Soeta

Policy Lead, Research and Innovation, National Centre for Universities and Business

Professor Max Lu

Vice-Chancellor, University of Surrey and Chair, UK Forum for Responsible Research Metrics

Dr Lee Jones

Reader in International Politics, Queen Mary University of London, and co-author, Saving Britain’s Universities

Dr Philip Cunliffe

Senior Lecturer in International Conflict, University of Kent, and co-author, Saving Britain’s Universities

Amelia Horgan

Social Media Manager, Common Wealth, and PhD Candidate, University of Essex