The Conservative Party 2015 election manifesto released today has no real surprises for higher education but includes some policy for universities and students and follows the Labour manifesto, which was published yesterday.
In the 82 page manifesto, the Tories promise to abolish the cap on student numbers, “removing an arbitrary ceiling on ambition”. This policy is already underway with an extra 30,000 student places introduced in 2014/15. Wonkhe is conducting research on the effect of removing student number controls which you can contribute to here. The manifesto also reminds us of the party’s national postgraduate loan system for taught masters and PhD courses though does not give any further information.
The Conservatives say that they will ensure universities deliver the best value for money to students and will “introduce a framework to recognise universities offering the highest teaching quality; encourage universities to offer more two-year courses; and require more data to be openly available to potential students so that they can make decisions informed by the career paths of past graduates.” The first two are not new ideas, but could represent new policy directions for the party if elected next month, as a Conservative government might choose to develop a ‘teaching REF’ and put further incentives in place for universities to offer two year degrees.
Looking at extremism, on page 63 of the manifesto the Conservatives say that they will “take further measures to ensure colleges and universities do not give a platform to extremist speakers.” Although there is no detail on what these measures may be.
The party also says that they will reform the student visa system “with new measures to tackle abuse and reduce the numbers of students overstaying once their visas expire.” They will clamp down on ‘satellite campuses’ opened in London by universities located elsewhere in the UK and review the ‘highly trusted sponsor system’ for student visas. They say the “introduction of exit checks will allow us to place more responsibility on visa sponsors for migrants who overstay, we will introduce targeted sanctions for those colleges or businesses that fail to ensure that migrants comply with the terms of their visa.”
Elsewhere in the manifesto, the Conservatives promise to ensure there is a University Technical College within reach of every city as well as provide more Degree Apprenticeships. The party promises to continue to improve Further Education through their network of National Colleges.
Through the existing Nurse review of research councils, the party will “seek to ensure that the UK continues to support world-leading science, and invests public money in the best possible way.” They will also encourage the development of online education as a tool for students, “whether studying independently or in our universities”
For science and research the Conservatives say they will invest £6.9 billion of capital in the UK’s research infrastructure up to 2021.
The above word cloud shows the Conservative’s biggest manifesto priorities.
Find the full Conservative Party manifesto here.