Westminster Higher Education Forum

We are continuing to organise full-scale virtual conferences which retain all the features of physical seminars, including full programmes, presentations with slides, panel discussions and live delegate questions and comments sessions, person-to-person and group networking, and a permanent record provided to all delegates afterwards. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time, so there are plenty of opportunities to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are.
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Priorities for international research partnerships

May 2021

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference focuses on the future for the UK’s international research partnerships.

With keynote contributions from UKRI and the European Commission, it will be an opportunity to consider the implications of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, and the UK’s future participation in Horizon and other cooperative programmes - as well as the UK’s international positioning more widely.

We are pleased to be able to include keynote sessions with Professor Christopher Smith, Executive Chair, AHRC, and Incoming International Champion, UKRI; Signe Ratso, Chief Negotiator, Horizon Europe, European Commission; Professor Sir Richard Catlow, Foreign Secretary and Vice President, Royal Society; and Dr Janet Ilieva, Director and Founder, Education Insight - as well as contributions from Elsevier; the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China; JISC; King’s College London; Shepherd and Wedderburn; the University of Edinburgh; the University of Oxford; the University of Sussex; and the Wellcome Trust.

Areas for discussion include:

  • the future of international research partnerships
  • the impact of COVID-19 on research cooperation, and lessons learned from the pandemic
  • attracting and retaining overseas talent in the UK
  • future research partnerships between the UK and EU

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from BEIS; the IPO; DIT; the FCDO; the Geospatial Commission; the Cabinet Office; Defra; the DHSC; the Dstl; HMRC; UKRI; The Scottish Government; Healthcare Inspectorate Wales; the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales; WEFO; and the Welsh Government; along with parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons.

The agenda

  • International research collaboration moving forward
  • The impact of COVID-19 on international research co-operation and lessons learned for international partnerships, knowledge exchange and allocation of funding moving forward
    • Improving international sharing of research data for streamlined research collaboration
    • Facilitating cross-UK and global research on COVID-19 knowledge gaps
    • The UK’s future role in European research connectivity
  • Encouraging international students to embark on research careers in the UK
  • Attracting and retaining overseas research talent in the UK - the visa and immigration system, support and mentorship for prospective and early career researchers, and fostering diverse and supportive research cultures
  • Next steps for global research and development partnerships
  • Facilitating development and recovery post-pandemic through global research co-operation - key focus areas, funding and next steps for effective collaboration
  • Horizon Europe and priorities for future research partnerships between the UK and the EU

Key areas for discussion:

  • the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement - confirming the UK’s future participation in Horizon and other cooperative programmes, governed by a future protocol to the main agreement
  • the UK’s wider global positioning - priorities for policy to support future international collaboration, including with EU member states as well as more widely
  • funding:
    • government investment - the impact of recent UK government allocations of research funding, including use of increased investment announced in the Budget 2020 and Spending Review 2020
    • targeting - assessing key research areas for supporting global development and post-pandemic economic challenges, and next steps for effective collaboration
    • the Higher Education Restructuring Regime - what it means for university research, with its conditions relating to quality of research output and serving the wider needs of the economy
    • cutting bureaucracy - priorities for the Government’s recently announced drive to streamline application processes for research grants
  • knowledge exchange and data sharing - examining best practice for effective partnerships between HEIs, as well as between the HE sector and other centres of research, including within industry
  • international research talent - latest thinking on options and initiatives in the wake of the UK’s exit from the European Union:
    • the new Office for Talent - announced in the Research and Development Roadmap, and what will be needed for it to achieve its aims of helping to attract and retain research talent in the UK
    • immigration - the likely impact of the new visa system, and related policy on international research talent
    • working in the UK - how welcome do overseas researchers currently feel in the UK, and what are the contributing factors, including research culture and diversity in research teams
    • the R&D People and Culture Strategy - what will be needed to improve the sustainability of research careers, including for technical staff and others working alongside researchers
    • supporting wellbeing - potential impact of the policy drive to cut bureaucracy, including on productivity, and fostering a joined-up support network for international student populations
    • the International Education Strategy - implementation so far, and likely impact on attracting international research talent to the UK
    • progression - how the higher education sector can improve its support for potential future researchers amongst international student cohorts in embarking on a research career in the UK
  • COVID-19:
    • learning from the intensified worldwide research collaboration to tackle the challenges brought about by the pandemic
    • what can be carried forward from the modes of engagement, the financial and data-sharing arrangements, and other facilitators of collaboration that were put in place

A scan of relevant developments:

  • UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement - the recently published agreement laying out the terms of future cooperation and relations with the EU, including the arrangements for continued participation in European programmes such as Horizon
  • the UK and Horizon Europe
    • participation - the EU confirming the UK’s participation in all aspects of Horizon, except European Innovation Council loans, and the right of UK entities to participate before the association agreement comes into force
    • funding requirements - the recent announcement of £250m to support the UK’s association with Horizon Europe and boost collaborative research
  • Global Talent Visa - recent announcement of changes to the Global Talent Visa allowing for an unsponsored points-based route, along with a less bureaucratic applications process, designed to attract highly skilled migrants
  • Adaptation Action Coalition - announced at the international Climate Adaptation Summit, endorsed by over 120 countries, and co-developed by the UK to act as a forum for the exchange of knowledge, and facilitate the development of best practice in improving climate change resilience
  • UK Research and Development Roadmap - which outlines the Government’s plans for domestic and international R&D in the wake of the pandemic
    • R&D Roadmap survey - with consultation responses highlighting the importance of regional, national and international collaboration, sustainable funding, attracting international talent and meeting global challenges
  • Spending Review 2020 - recent announcement of nearly £15bn of investment in R&D over 2021-22, including a £350m allocation for UKRI, aimed at allowing researchers to drive innovation and technological change while supporting collaboration with global partners
  • UK’s research infrastructure - £213m of funding to be used for a range of facility upgrades and state-of-the-art equipment upgrades across both arts and scientific disciplines
  • Funding boost for mathematical sciences institutes - UKRI has announced funding for three leading research institutes in the UK, including the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences, as part of the £300m government investment in the Additional Funding Programme for Mathematical Sciences.
  • International partnerships research global impact of COVID-19 - with funding from UKRI through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the Newton Fund
  • Managing risks in internationalisation - from Universities UK, with guidance on research, IP and partnerships, reputation and values, and cyber security of individuals and infrastructure
  • Open research Area for the Social Sciences - recent announcement of multilateral collaborative projects between the UK, France, Germany, Canada and Japan, with researchers strengthening international cooperation on counter terrorism, socioeconomic change and income inequality, amongst other areas
  • Square Kilometre Array - headquartered in the UK, bringing together 15 countries and international organisations to build and operate the world’s largest radio telescope
  • Government to protect UK research jobs with major support package - including £280m to support researchers’ salaries and other costs, as well as for supporting R&D
  • further cross-sector governmental strategies:
    • UK International Research and Innovation Strategy
    • Industrial Strategy: building a Britain fit for the future - with an increase in UK investment in R&D to 2.4% GDP by 2027
    • UK National Data Strategy - recently published by DCMS, and aiming to build a world-leading UK data economy, as well as public trust in data use
    • Government Technology Innovation Strategy - to support public services improvements through use of data, new approaches to procurement and funding, and developing skills and leadership
  • World must unite to defeat COVID and prevent future pandemics - the Prime Minister’s address to the UN General Assembly, calling for increased international research cooperation for preventing future pandemics such as COVID-19
  • International Education strategy 2021 update - which notes the increasingly global nature of the UK’s high quality research, highlighting the need to attract global scientific talent and the importance of international research collaboration, with UK-India research and education cooperation cited as a particular success
  • The China Question - the recent report, led by former universities minister Jo Johnson, highlighting the risks involved in the increasingly close cooperation, in research and higher education, between the UK and China, and calling for a more cautious and guarded approach
  • UKRI required to review Official Development Assistance funding - the recent announcement of cuts to UKRI funds allocated to ODA research projects, following the overall reduction of the UK aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP
    • with various commentators, including Universities UK, predicting that the £120m shortfall will result in the termination of existing projects and possibly damage the UK’s international standing

Policy officials attending:

Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons and officials from BEIS; the Cabinet Office; the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory; Defra; the Department for International Trade; the Department of Health and Social Care; the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office; the Geospatial Commission; HM Revenue and Customs; the Intellectual Property Office; UK Research and Innovation; The Scottish Government; Healthcare Inspectorate Wales; the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales; Welsh European Funding Office; and the Welsh Government.

Overall, we expect further speakers and other delegates to be an informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government officials from DfE, BEIS, FCDO 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; international research bodies, 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 and transcript 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

Shortly after every Westminster Higher Education Forum seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates