Freedom of speech, censorship and bias – interesting times in HE

Freedom of speech in HE is in the press – a lot – at the moment.  The debate is very polarised and polarising.  For that reason, I should clarify before I start that the views below are my own (and not an official position for BU or the Lighthouse Group).

It started last week, when the massive set of consultations on the Office for Students (OfS) and the new regulatory framework were launched with a flurry about freedom of speech. The Times published an interview with Jo Johnson discussing the proposal that measures to protect freedom of speech should be a condition of OfS registration. The Guardian notes proposed powers for the OfS to fine or suspend the registration of universities that fail to protect the freedom of speech on campus, including student unions that ‘no platform’ controversial speakers. Read the full post “Freedom of speech, censorship and bias – interesting times in HE”

Fees, loans and debt – an Autumn update

This blog is an edited version of one posted on the Bournemouth University Research blog as part of our regular HE policy update series.  Views are those of the author not BU.

I’ve just realised that nearly all my blogs for the Lighthouse Group are about fees.  That’s not because it’s my only interest (far from it) – but it is something that seems to require summarising regularly.

Although of course concerns about student debt, the cost of the government subsidy for student loans and whether university degrees provide “value for money” have been a consistent theme, the general election really brought focus, because of the Labour pledge to abolish tuition fees for new students and the desire to forgive existing student debt. The latter was interpreted by some as a “promise” and others as a “wish”, but the combination allegedly swayed young people in huge numbers to (a) vote, and (b) vote Labour. I have written about this elsewhere – students and young people did turn out in large numbers and many of them did vote Labour – but it is highly unlikely (at least in my view) that this was down to a single issue.

Read the full post “Fees, loans and debt – an Autumn update”

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Health warning: this is a fast moving area, so likely to be out of date as soon as published!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

Read the full post “Fees, loans and debt – context for the national conversation”

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.

Read the full post “Sister Group for the Lighthouse Policy Group”

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.

Read the full post “Ready for the Lords debates on the HE and Research Bill?”

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.

Read the full post “What does Jeremy Corbyn’s grants policy mean for students and universities?”

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.

Read the full post “What’s going on about fees?”

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.

Read the full post “Moving the Whitehall deckchairs – Back to the Future?”