Fees, loans and debt – context for the national conversation

Health warning: this is a fast moving area, so likely to be out of date as soon as published! 

Labour’s promises to abolish tuition fees (and forgive loans for graduates) have been credited in some quarters as leading to an increase in turn-out amongst young people at the election, and a consequent increase in the Labour vote. The “national conversation” is being pursued actively in all the media by politicians and commentators.  So how did we get to this point?

The government’s electoral problem -are tuition fees the key to why the government lost its majority?

Did young people turn out in massively increased numbers as claimed immediately after the election? Some suggested a turn out figure above 70%.

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Sister Group for the Lighthouse Policy Group

Picture of Spinnaker TowerAs our members gather next week for our latest Lighthouse Policy Group meeting at the University of Portsmouth, I have been reflecting on how valuable the group has been. So valuable in fact that I am investigating the possibility of a sister group with colleagues who lead on student experience in institutions across the sector.

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Ready for the Lords debates on the HE and Research Bill?

The committee stage in the House of Lords starts on Monday 9th January 2016.  The list of proposed amendments stands at 85 pages.  Progress can be tracked on the new House of Lords pages here.  The bill itself (if you need it for reference) is here.

So if you’re catching up after the holidays or looking for reference materials, here is a round up ahead of some of the key topics ahead the debates next week.

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What does Jeremy Corbyn’s grants policy mean for students and universities?

Labour-leadership-contender-Jeremy-CorbynThe past few days have seen an announcement from the Jeremy Corbyn Labour leadership campaign over the creation of a National Education Service (NES) and the reintroduction of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for 16-18 year olds and maintenance grants for undergraduate students.

The National Education Service which will fund education from ‘cradle to grave’ will include early years as well as adult skills was announced in July 2015 on the Labour List website as part of Jeremy Corbyn’s initial leadership campaign. It has however taken a year for this announcement. The NES is part of a clear narrative to win over staff and unions in the education sector who are Labour Party members to support Jeremy Corbyn.

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What’s going on about fees?

There has been a lot of discussion this week about proposed fee increases following the second reading of the HE and Research Bill. A story reported in many papers and on the BBC said that universities had jumped the gun in announcing higher fees for 2017/18. Here’s a round up of the background to all this.

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Moving the Whitehall deckchairs – Back to the Future?

london_big_ben_tubeOne of the benefits of having worked in public affairs in and around the higher education sector is seeing the variety of change that has gone on over the past decade. After Thursday’s ‘morning of the long knives’ ministerial reshuffle by the new Prime Minister, Theresa May it now seems there is to be a wholesale restructure of Whitehall.

An early announcement was the reconstitution of the Department for Education, under new Secretary of State, Rt. Hon. Justine Greening MP. The new DfE appears to be taking on pre-2007 responsibilities for Higher Education, Further Education and Skills. Pragmatically much of this will be done to free up physical space in Whitehall as well as their only being (by law) a maximum of 23 seats at the Cabinet table. With two new Departments – a Department for International Trade and a Department for Brexit this was always going to make things tricky.

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What keeps a Policy Advisor awake at night?

At the Lighthouse Policy Group meetings we normally have a session with the Vice-Chancellor of the institution who is hosting our meeting, during which one of the questions we like to ask is: ‘What keeps you awake at night?’.

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Talking the talk, walking the walk

To follow up on my previous blog post, Policy Wonks Ahoy, about the rise of ‘policy wonks’, one of the founder members of the Lighthouse Policy Group, Caroline Chipperfield, has been in touch with some other pieces published about Policy Advisors:

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