The Higher Education and Research Bill (HE Bill for short) is due to return to the House of Commons for a Final Reading at some point after Easter.
At the moment we do not know which date that will be, but we expect that it will be at the end of April or early May. (We won’t get much notice.)
The House of Lords passed a number of useful amendments to the HE Bill. During the Final Reading, MPs will decide whether to accept these amendments. These contain important safeguards, such as
- specifying the purpose of a university, including that they are required to defend academic freedom;
- defending institutional autonomy;
- de-linking the TEF from caps on student numbers and fee rises;
- reinstituting some upfront quality control (reducing the prospect of a rapid branding of a private company as a ‘university’); and
- creating limits on awarding colleges Degree Awarding Powers.
There is everything to fight for.
Until now, Conservative and Unionist MPs have simply voted on party lines to get the bill through its First and Second Readings. MPs from the other parties have voted against the bill.
The Government has a small majority. It will not take many Conservative MPs to be convinced to vote for an amendment for it to be retained.
This also makes the job of lobbying MPs a bit easier than usual! If you live in a Conservative constituency, you can approach your MP in full knowledge that you can make a real difference. Personal approaches from opponents of the bill, whether they are from university staff, students, family members, teachers, or others, are likely to be effective.
On the day of the Final Reading itself, London Region UCU has called a lobby of Parliament. Outside of London, a “day of action” is proposed.
But the real work needs to start now, before the Easter break.
Write to your MP!
We are asking everyone who cares about the future of UK Higher Education to write to their MPs by personal letter.
- If possible, ask to meet with your MP face-to-face to discuss your letter. Organise delegations with colleagues.
- Ask your MP to consider the implications of the HE Bill and to support amendments made in the House of Lords.
Below are two up-to-date briefings from colleagues in the Council for the Defence of British Universities (CDBU) and the University and College Union (UCU). The CDBU briefing, drafted by Prof David Midgley, identifies key amendments to target and arguments you can use when writing to MPs. The second document from UCU is a letter that was sent to MPs last week.
There is also a UCU Lobby your MP online tool if you are not sure who your MP is and how to contact them. Note that the wording is currently rather out-of-date. Change the wording and bring your letter up-to-date. In any case, the personal approach is always best!