Who really calls the shots in higher education? Is it the academics, or are they simply striving to get by in a system they have little control over? Is it students, or are they just a distraction from the important business of research? Perhaps it’s vice chancellors, or are they stuck with making the best of decisions made in Westminster? And what of the political classes? Do BIS Ministers get much of a say or does real power rest in the Treasury?
As the variety of contributors to this website shows, plenty of highly credible figures are looking to have an impact on the way higher education institutions are run and the policy context they operate in. Such a crowded field makes it difficult to determine where the real points of influence are and who we should be taking most seriously. But we’re going to have a go.
Wonkhe is teaming up with corporate communications consultancy Linstock to compile a list of the 50 people most likely to have an influence over HE in the next year. Linstock’s expertise on influence and engagement complements Wonkhe’s position as the home of higher education wonks, but we’re not going to rely solely on our own judgment to determine who makes the cut. We’re kicking off with a call to you, the knowledgeable readership of Wonkhe, to suggest candidates for the list. Who are the most influential academics, commentators and wonks, and which politicians are going to have the biggest impact on the sector?
It’s a good moment to take stock of influence in HE. The General Election is fast approaching and politicians from across the political spectrum have been doing all they can to kick lumps out of their opponents. It’s not been pretty, and it’s only going to get worse. But, much as we might wish to avoid the whole ghastly spectacle, we’ve got to face up to the fact that change could be on the way. With none of the main parties winning overwhelming public support and the likes of UKIP, the Greens and the SNP (and now Al Murray) rocking the boat, few pollsters are prepared to make strong predictions.
Whichever party (or combination of parties) enters government will have to devise policies to address some big issues in the sector. For instance, they’ll need to ensure a fair system of student funding that is sustainable for the long term; decide how research funding will be allocated; and come up with a regulatory system that fully accommodates the alternative providers that are increasingly having an impact. All this while making the cuts that will inevitably be demanded from the BIS budget. Our list will offer some pointers about who’s going to have an influence on these decisions.
We’re putting out a wide call for your ideas about who should make the cut. Please submit your suggestions below including the name of the person you’re nominating and a short 50 word justification. We’ll add all of your suggestions to our own ideas and put them to an esteemed panel of leading HE watchers, from within the sector and beyond, who have kindly agreed to scrutinise the credentials of the leading candidates. We’re delighted to announce that the panel will be made up of:
- Andy Westwood, Outgoing Chief Executive, GuildHE, incoming Associate Vice-President for Public Affairs at the University of Manchester
- Smita Jamdar, Head of Education at SGH Martineau LLP
- Richard Brabner, Head of Policy, University of Hertfordshire
- Sarah Jackson, Director of Research, Partnerships and Innovation at University of Liverpool
- Aaron Porter, Director of External Relations, National Centre for Universities and Business
- Alistair Jarvis, Director of Communications and External Relations, Universities UK
- Robin Middlehurst, Professor of Higher Education, Kingston University
- Kate Hunter, Executive Director, CASE Europe
The panel will come together to judge the order of the final list, which we’ll publish early in the Spring. We don’t expect this to be without controversy and we’ll cover reactions from across the sector.
So, who’s going to make the top 50? Let us know what you think and who you believe should be on the list.