Increase funding for educational research for UK’s future prosperity, say British Academy and Royal Society

21 May 2024

Investment in educational research is significantly lagging compared to other large scale public sectors, warns a report by the British Academy and Royal Society.

In 2021 to 2022, educational research at UK universities only amounted to 0.05% of public spending on education, considerably lower than the approximately 1.7% of public health spending into health research.

The Academies are calling on the UK government to raise levels of investment in educational research in proportion with other sectors, create a more coordinated, forward-thinking system, and support research in underdeveloped and emerging areas.

The policy briefing – the culmination of longstanding collaboration between the British Academy and the Royal Society – makes several recommendations, including:

  • Government should increase funding for educational research, bringing it into line with other important public service research funding.
  • Research funders should include more long-term research funding opportunities and support for underrepresented and emerging research themes to provide deeper insight into important questions and into the effectiveness of policy changes.
  • Government should pilot a model of advocacy and coordination to strengthen the educational research infrastructure. This would offer strategic advice to government and help to translate evidence into practice.

The Academies are also publishing a short summary of an in-depth report, ‘The Landscape of Educational Research in the UK’ to provide an expansive analysis of the state of play in educational research.

Professor Simon Swain FBA, Vice-President of Research and Higher Education Policy at the British Academy, said:

“A thriving and successful education ecosystem requires the strong foundations of healthy and well-funded research into education itself. This long-standing collaboration between the British Academy and Royal Society emphasises how important it is for different disciplines to work together in a sustained way to connect our knowledge. This project is more evidence of the strategic value of social sciences, humanities and arts subjects in the research and development landscape and a significant contribution to the overwhelming case for stable, long-term funding across the board to make the UK a science superpower.”

Professor Ulrike Tillmann, mathematician and Chair of the Royal Society’s Education Committee, said:

"We all know the enormous value of education in allowing people to be better citizens and lead more fulfilling lives. We also know that a well-educated and highly skilled workforce is more productive. Indeed, all economic sectors rely on a solid foundation of good quality education to thrive, and if the UK is to become a science superpower, we need to understand better the long-term effects of education. We can no longer rely solely on short-term evaluation and learning gains – we need forward-thinking research that looks at the enduring impact of education on an individual’s lifelong growth to build a healthier education system that benefits us all.”

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