With the snap election just called, you might have thought that the current government’s Higher Education and Universities Bill was going to be delayed, but it looks as though they’re going to try to push it through next week before Parliament is prorogued. On 6 March the House of Lords voted for amendments to two of the most controversial features of the Government’s HE Bill: (1) the intention to link TEF to the ability to raise tuition fees, and (2) allowing new private providers degree-awarding powers without four years of validation by a university or approval by a quality assurance body. This was a rare instance of good news for our sector, and was the result of intense lobbying: from UCU, but also from concerned academics, students, parents, and others worried by the ramifications of these ill-conceived proposals.
With the final reading of the Bill looming, we cannot let up on the campaign now: the Lords were receptive to individuals raising their concerns, and when it returns to the House of Commons, we need to put pressure on our local MPs–especially for those of us who live in a constituency with a Conservative MP–to agree to these amendments. With the election foremost on MPs’ minds, they’ll be particularly likely to be attentive to their constituents’ concerns, especially where a university is so integral to the economic and cultural life of the area.
Make no mistake: the HE Bill as it currently stands is an existential threat to academic life in this country. And it is UCU that is fighting it: the representative bodies of university leaders, GuildHE and UUK, sent out a joint letter on 2 March ‘signalling [their] strong support’ for the Bill, so we cannot rely on our employers to defend British Universities.