Research policy

woman looking into a microscope in a bright research lab

Our universities lead the world in science and research, but government must invest more if we are to maximise the benefits to the economy, society and people's everyday lives. 


Over three-quarters of all publicly-funded research and development takes place in a university, and this is money well spent:

  • The last national assessment of research quality in the UK's universities, the Research Excellence Framework, found that 76% of the submitted work was internationally excellent or world-leading.

  • With just 1% of the world's population, we produced 16% of the most highly cited research articles.

However, government can do more to support UK science and research in universities. Greater public investment is needed if we are to maximise the benefits and impact of our world-leading research base.

We are ​focused on helping government and other stakeholders to deliver this objective - our priorities are​:

  1. To secure long-term, sustainable investment in UK science and research in universities

  2. To ensure that the policy, governance and administrative environment supports excellent research in universities

  3. To provide support, advice and guidance to help enhance the quality and reputation of UK science and research

  4. To communicate the benefits of university-based science and research to the economy, society and people's everyday lives

Our work on science and research policy is informed by the Research Policy Network, chaired by Professor Paul Boyle (Vice-Chancellor, Swansea University).

Our work on science a​nd research:

  • Funding, infrastructure and assessment to support world-class research
  • Open access and open data
  • Research using animals
  • Research integrity and misconduct
  • Public engagement with research
  • Researcher careers and support
  • Universities UK Research Policy Network

Funding, infrastr​ucture and assessment to support world-class research

In order to remain at the forefront of the global research community, we need to ensure that our universities have the resources and support to fulfil their potential

We make the case to government for continued and increased investment in science and research, setting out the evidence base for greater public investment in our universities . We also represent the university interest, working with government, funders and other stakeholders  to ensure that the UK policy environment supports world class research

Open acc​ess and open research data

We believe that all of the UK's publicly-funded research should be available to the public, for free. Open access makes research more transparent, rigorous and efficient; stimulates innovation; and promotes public engagement.

To support the move towards open access we convene the Universities UK Open Access Coordination Group, which brings together representatives from across the scholarly process, including research producers, funders and publishers, to coordinate and monitor progress.

Similarly, we are engaged with open research data, which improves the accessibility and reuse of the data underpinning research publications. We contribute to this agenda as a member of the Open Research Data Forum and the Open Research Data Taskforce​.

More information is available on our Open Science​ page.

Research u​sing animals

Many of our members are engaged in essential research using animals, and are subject to one of the most comprehensive and robust regulatory systems in the world. Recognising that such research is necessary and has the potential to deliver significant benefits, we encourage our members to:

  • be open and transparent in their research practices

  • follow best practice in husbandry and welfare at all times

  • actively engage with the 3Rs agenda

We sit on the governance group of the Concordat on openness on animal research in the UK, of which we are also signatories.

Research​​ integrity and misconduct

Good research is underpinned by appropriate ethical, legal and professional frameworks, obligations and standards; a culture of integrity and good governance; and support for the development of researchers.

We are signatories to the Concordat to support research integrity​​​, which sets out expectations for all those involved in research through five high-level commitments.

For more information, please see our research integrity web page​.

Public engagement with research

We support the Concordat for Engaging the Public with Research, which aims to help embed public engagement in universities and research institutes by setting out clear expectations for all those involved in research. The concordat seeks to support, recognise and promote existing good practice in public engagement.

We also support a consortium of partners on a project to explore the barriers to public engagement by researchers, and look for opportunities promote discussions between researchers, universities, research institutes, funders and the public.

Research​ careers and support

The success of UK research depends on universities' ability to attract, support and reward all research staff. We support universities to do this by contributing to sector-wide initiatives such as the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers


 The team

portrait of charlie coyte

Charlotte Coyte

Policy Analyst
Universities UK

Daniel Wake

Daniel Wake

Policy Manager
Universities UK


Brexit will impact the UK’s world-leading research – but only if we let it

14 October 2019
With the 31 October Brexit deadline looming, the threats it poses to the UK’s research capacity can still be resolved, writes Professor Hilary Pilkington.

LEAF – A new standard in Sustainable Science

18 September 2019
LEAF – a new independent standard which is enabling science laboratories to improve their sustainability and efficiency.

Report cover

Economic impact on the UK of EU research funding to UK universities

10 June 2016
EU research funding generates more than 19,000 jobs across the UK, £1.86 billion for the UK economy and contributes more than £1 billion to GDP, according to this report produced for Universities UK by Viewforth Consulting.

Monitoring the transition to open access: August 2015

4 August 2015
A study commissioned in response to a recommendation of the Finch Group that reliable indicators should be gathered on key features of the transition to open access in the UK.

Report page

Why invest in universities?

25 June 2015
Universities are essential for the UK's modern knowledge economy. The UK has a university sector that many other countries aspire to emulate.

Supporting STEM front cover

Supporting STEM in schools and colleges in England: The role of research

21 December 2011
This report, researched and written by the UCL Institute of Education, demonstrates the role of social science research - and specifically education research - in sustaining and developing the STEM skills base in England.

Report page

Adapting business models in a changing environment

7 September 2010
This report is published as part of the second strand of Universities UK’s From Recession to Recovery project, supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

The future of research

5 August 2010
The future opportunities and challenges facing the UK university research base and makes recommendations as to how the system can respond to these.

Securing world class research in UK universities

26 November 2009
The vital role that quality-related research funding plays in sustaining the research base, providing the flexibility to respond to emerging societal challenges, and supporting the next generation of researchers.

Tobacco Industry Funding to Universities: A Joint Protocol of Cancer Research and Universities UK

1 February 2004
The impact of further concentration on university research performance and regional research capacity

Funding research diversity

2 October 2003
The impact of further concentration on university research performance and regional research capacity