Following the July Budget, big speech from the new universities minister and developments at the Home Office, Martin McQuillan brings together everything we know and considers how the Conservatives will tackle higher education over the next parliament.
After the heat and noise around Labour’s announced £6,000 fee policy, Martin McQuillan continues his monthly series on higher education politics and policy by turning his attention to the Conservative Party – their policies and what life might be like for universities if the Conservatives are returned to power in May.
The Thatcherite ‘Free Enterprise Group’ made up largely of 2010 intake MPs have published a report on higher education funding; ‘Completing the Reform, Freeing the Universities’. It argues that financial independence and stability for universities can be achieved by building up endowment funds. Not a new idea by any means, but it is important to understand thinking about universities emanating from a group of MPs that contain current government ministers and others tipped to lead the Conservative Party one day.
The Government’s friendless higher education policies may have another enemy that has been previously lying low; the Tory right. Yesterday the Government announced their Social Mobility Strategy which has been broadly welcomed by most. But right-wing Tory, and one-time leadership hopeful David Davis, used the opportunity to further his libertarian argument that would see the retreat of the state in almost every aspect of life, including laws designed to rebalance unfair socio-economic realities. Included in his complaint are measures to ensure that universities take state school applicants through what many view as the discredited and largely toothless OFFA regime which in any case allows institutions to set their own benchmarks for success, rather than complying with a Whitehall edict.