Open Steering Committee Meeting, UCL, 30 June

HE Convention Steering Committee

UCL porticoThursday 30 June 11.30-2pm
Room 1.20, First Floor, Malet Place Engineering Building
University College London

Torrington Place / Malet Street entrance (opposite Waterstones)

Nearest tubes: Goodge St/Euston Sq/Warren St/Russell Sq

Map

Register

– Open to all who share our aims –

The Conservative Government is attempting to dismantle the regulatory framework protecting the English Higher Education sector, and by extension the UK HE sector. They are proceeding apace, despite the opposition of the vast majority of the sector.

This speed may be in proportion to the vacuity of their arguments, but we should be under no illusions: the Government is moving very rapidly indeed.

We saw the publication of the HE White Paper on 16 May, followed by the formal announcement of the Government’s Higher Education and Research Bill in the Queen’s Speech on 18 May. This Bill has already had its First Reading in the Commons.

The HE Bill seeks to allow private companies (so-called ‘for-profit alternative providers’) to set themselves up as ‘universities’ with limited oversight, so that they can market themselves to unsuspecting students and parents, and claim Government-backed tuition fees.

The Bill is not merely misconceived. It is designed with specific beneficiaries in mind. These are not students nor educationalists. The beneficiaries are a group of ‘for-profit providers’ whose track record in the UK and US has been dismal and disastrous.

In so doing, it aims to eliminate, as ‘barriers to competition’, existing protections for teaching quality and academic freedom provided by HEFCE, the Privy Council, the QAA etc. It is firing the starting pistol in a race to the bottom.

Even supermarkets are regulated. But the HE Bill aims to abolish existing regulations that protect quality, and create in their place a new ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ which measures neither teaching nor excellence.

Finally – in case you thought that the Government believed that this was sustainable – it deliberately envisages the ‘exit’ of institutions from the sector, whether they be fly-by-night commercial operations or longstanding universities.

We are invited to believe that the problems of decreasing social mobility created by high tuition fees and indebtedness (intensified by the abolition of the EMA, maintenance grants and bursaries) are to be addressed by the entry of poor quality, deregulated commercial business masquerading as ‘universities’.

Our response has begun. The launch of the Alternative White Paper in Parliament on 13 June must mark the beginning of a big movement to restate the argument for Public Higher Education and to build the kind of opposition that will be necessary to defeat the HE Bill. The Parliamentary launch saw the Labour and Liberal Democrat spokespeople for Higher Education speak against the Bill and for the vision espoused in the Alternative White Paper: for Higher Education worthy of the name, understood as a public good, and accessible to all who can benefit.

  • Our campaign must be on every University campus, every FE college, and every school and 6th Form college that teaches ‘A’-levels.
  • We need to be knocking on MPs’ doors in their constituencies and taking the argument into our communities across the UK.
  • In the Autumn, on 15 October we plan the Third Convention for Higher Education to redouble our efforts against the HE Bill.

Come to the Steering Committee Meeting to discuss the next steps in our campaign.

Following the meeting, at 3.30pm, there will be a lobby of the London Metropolitan University board of governors over their plan to cut university staff by a further 395 (one third) and sack two leading union reps.

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About Sean

Senior Research Fellow, Survey of English Usage, University College London
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