The Political Affairs in Higher Education conference, now in its second year, brings together senior leaders of policy, public relations and political affairs from across the higher education sector. We’re live blogging the day and you can find the agenda here.
The morning’s third speaker, succeeding Rammell, is Katharine Peacock, Managing Director of ComRes.
“A lot of people are talking about the Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon being a mass youth movement from social media and saying that there’s this mass of people on the left who haven’t been represented.
“What I want to say to you is Labour did not lost the last election because they weren’t left-wing enough.”
Bill Rammell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire and former universities minister is asking the big question – elsewhere on Wonkhe we have a blog based on this morning’s speech:
Some of that is simply about raising our profile as a university in our region – we are a local recruiter and it helps us if influential people have an insight into our work and can understand what we have to offer, whether it is that we are a top ten university for improving the student experience or that we saw the second highest proportional increase in funding in the country in the wake of REF 2014.
It is equally important that those individuals are equipped to make arguments on our behalf. We need our local MPs and councillors to have an understanding of why it matters if immigration policy restricts our ability to recruit international students and that it has a direct impact not just on our health as a university but on the economic health of the region as a whole.
But in a more fundamental sense, this engagement activity speaks to the role of universities in their local communities and regions.
You can read the full piece here.
Question from the floor on part-time students draws the following remark from Willetts:
“Perhaps my greatest regret was what happened with part-time students.”
End of keynote speech. Razzall asks Willetts about the Green Paper. He responds:
“I don’t think it’s fair for me to go around doing a commentary on Jo [Johnson] and Sajid [Javid]. There is a growing sense that while with research we’d already got a highly competitive system, there weren’t enough competitive pressures when it came to teaching.”
On the EU referendum, Willetts warns: “There is a trap for universities. If you approach the case for the EU simply in terms of ‘Universities get more money out of it than they put in’; to be honest, I don’t think that is an argument of massive impact, if you’re saying the crucial test is whether you get out more than you put in. While that’s true in HE, the argument points the other way overall.
“If, however, you take a few steps back and say this university can serve this city region best if we are part of the EU – it benefits from the flow of people, funding and research, that’s an argument that would have purchase. Think of how your arguments will play to a wider audience.”
“Look at the vice-chancellors who are shaping the media agenda. Sir Anthony Seldon only arrived at Buckingham couple of months ago but is so active. I would predict, at the moment, that Anthony Seldon is going to the the most high profile representative of university leadership.
“And look at the role which, to her credit, Louise Richardson played in the Scottish independence referendum, where other Scottish VCs were silent.”
Lord Willetts, introduced by chair Katie Razzall, currently giving the keynote address:
“I’ve spoken a few times in this hall over the years with many happy memories – well, most of them happy memories…
“You know who your allies are. Your local MPs; think also of all the surrounding MPs who’ve got university staff living there and students in accommodation. Councillors of course, especially with the move to radical devolution. City leaders. Can you work with other institutional leaders in your region?
“The most important voice is the students. Students who themselves are willing to speak about their experiences at your university.”
David WIlletts: “Find something specific to say to policymakers about what you’re doing at your university”
Delegates have now made their way up into Woburn House’s main hall for the event to begin. After an introduction from today’s chair, BBC Newsnight’s Katie Razzall, we’ll hear the keynote address from former Minister for Universities and Science Lord Willetts
The live blog will commence shortly.