Chris Skidmore to chair latest Higher Education Commission Inquiry

Policy Connect, in partnership with the Higher Education Commission, has today announced that Chris Skidmore, MP for Kingswood and former Universities Minister will be chairing the Commission’s next inquiry into university research and regional inequalities.

Chris’s tenure as Universities Minister will be instrumental to the future of the Commission’s work, helping to ensure that the upcoming inquiry produces practical, powerful recommendations to government, businesses, and the higher education sector.

Chris previously collaborated with the Higher Education Commission at the launch of its most recent report, Arriving at Thriving: Learning from disabled students to ensure access for all. Chris gave the keynote speech at the launch event, and commended the report for the number of disabled students whose voices are embedded in it.

The Commission’s next research project will explore how research funding could be used by universities to contribute to the government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda. This could entail promoting greater collaboration between universities and businesses; sharing physical and technological infrastructure between these organisations; universities aligning more of their research priorities with Local Industrial Strategies; and learning from the best examples of how to use research funding strategically to benefit the local area and tackle regional disparities.

The inquiry will build upon the findings of the Civic University and UK2070 Commissions and Nesta’s Missing £4bn report. The final report will offer policy recommendations to government, research councils and the university sector, to ensure that the government’s target of increasing R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP can be leveraged by universities to reduce regional inequality.

Chris Skidmore MP says “I’m really looking forward to co-chairing this important Higher Education Commission inquiry. It has never been more important to tackle regional inequalities in economic performance, innovation and productivity, as we face the challenges presented by the pandemic and work to build back better. We must come together as a nation to support our local economies, levelling up all areas of the UK and ensuring that no one is left behind. The higher education sector has a key role to play in this, and I look forward to working with universities to think strategically about their use of research funding, and further establish their role as anchor institutions in their local areas.”

Lord Philip Norton, Chair of the Higher Education Commission added “I’m very pleased to be co-chairing this inquiry with Chris Skidmore MP, and I’m sure that his time as Universities Minister will greatly benefit the recommendations and impact of this inquiry. We have a clear vision for enabling universities and businesses to harness increased R&D investment in order to tackle regional disparities, including growing university-business partnerships and improving the impact of university research on the local area. We are keen to discover the barriers which might prevent this and the potential solutions, so that we can set out a practical pathway forward.”The Commission will meet on November 25th to discuss the scope and focus of the inquiry. Potential lines of investigation include:


  • How can universities use their research work to contribute to the government’s levelling-up agenda?
  • What actions should the government take to support universities with this work?
  • What is the existing infrastructure around awarding of research funding, and how could this be utilised to ensure that funding benefits the receiving institution’s local or regional area or community?
  • What examples are there of existing programmes and schemes which enable universities to work with businesses and other stakeholders in a way which benefits the local/regional area?


We look forward to this navigational session and to Chris’s involvement in the inquiry.