University research contracts: are they charitable?
In June 2009, the Charity Commission published Research by Higher Education Institutions, which provides guidance to help universities decide whether a research project is charitable. This guidance reflects the provisions of the Charities Act 2006.
In brief, to be counted as charitable, research must be carried out (a) for a charitable purpose, such as the advancement of education, and (b) for the public benefit. It is necessary to be able to show that a research project meets these criteria, as there is no longer an automatic presumption that all academic research is charitable. Moreover, a university may carry out activities only in furtherance of its charitable objects and in accordance with its constitutional and legal powers.
We have provided three checklists, based on the Charity Commission’s guidance, to help universities to meet their obligations in this area:
- a checklist for university research contracts, to help those responsible for negotiating and approving research contracts to decide whether or not a proposed research project is charitable;
- a checklist for university trustees, to help university trustees and their delegates ensure that the university acts in accordance with charity law and its constitutional powers
- a checklist for funding a technology transfer company, to help a university decide whether it can provide funding to a technology transfer company.
These checklists are based on the Charity Commission’s guidance, and follow its wording closely. For simplicity, we have referred throughout to universities, though the guidance is equally applicable to all higher education institutions in England and Wales. The checklists are for guidance only and do not provide a complete or authoritative statement of the law.
We are happy to advise universities on research contracts and technology transfer. To find out how we can help you, please contact us.
Article posted: 2009-08-17