16th May 2019

The Rules of Engagement: building political trust and confidence in universities

At this one day event, we’ll focus on the policy challenges facing higher education, how to influence, and the tools you need to effect political and policy change.

Universities are lightning rods for controversy as politics swerves towards populism and can no longer rely on a revolving door into government to make their case. Brexit is taking up all the political bandwidth and politicians openly question whether universities can be trusted to act in the public and student interest.

We will explore the policy issues that universities are facing and look at where we should be focusing our energy and how we can best muster our arguments, using all the tools at our disposal.

Book your tickets here

Bringing together sector leaders and policymakers to get a rounded picture of the state of higher education policy and politics in 2019, this is an essential event for anyone working in policy, public affairs and external stakeholder management in universities.


9.30  Registration and refreshments 

9.50 The state of the nation: UK politics seems to be in a constant state of disarray, division and confusion. An exploration of where the nation is politically, what are the implications for universities and how we navigate the nonsense. Delivered by a political commentator. – Matt Chorley, Red Box, The Times’

10.30 In conversation: higher education policy, politics and a plan of action: We are now in heavily contested territory for policy focus, local and national budget and politicians time. In the context of the spending review and brexit – across government departments where do universities fit into the political agenda, how do we effectively make the case for universities and what policy agendas should universities be championing in order to be heard in the corridors of power?  – David Phoenix, London South Bank University and Rachel Wolf, Public First

11.15 Refreshment and networking 

11.45 Breakout session 

Putting the public back into public affairs: The old rules no longer apply in a fragmented, volatile public policy and political landscape. Public affairs and public relations is not about the story we want to tell about ourselves – it’s about changing perceptions in an aggressive, emotional and lightning quick public environment – all online. How do universities cut through this, build public trust and win the right to be heard? – Charles Heymann, Higher education public affairs & strategy expert and Gabriel Huntley, Headland Comms

Leading change: applying campaigning techniques to your influencing agenda : If you’re trying to change policy and lead an influencing agenda, you need a plan of action. The disciplines of campaigning can help you to frame objectives, identify your audience and their influencers, and generate a theory of change that will set you on the path to making an impact with your policy and public affairs work. – Karmjit Kaur, Universities UK 

Beyond a meeting with the minister: influencing in the UK Parliament: There are a host of pathways to influence inside the UK Parliament, including backbench and opposition MPs, select committees, APPGs and the Lords. This workshop will explore how universities can influence by making life easier for the hard-pressed staff who support parliamentarians. – Rachel Wenstone, Charity Commission for England and Wales

12.45 Lunch and networking 

1.45 Comres Research: The results of new polling commissioned by Universities UK will be unveiled in this session, focused on MPs’ perceptions of universities and the issues that matter the most. Wider ComRes political polling work will also be discussed.- Nicola Marsh, Comres

2.15 Policy conversations: Facilitated policy discussions 2 x 30 minutes session. This is the delegates opportunity to learn more about a specific policy area and also discuss agendas, challenges and plans of action with peers.

3.30 Coalitions, politicians and the right ambitions; lessons from Save the Children: Learn about experiences of designing and implementing successful political engagement and advocacy strategies. Attendees will hear about ‘what works’ in terms of political advocacy and how to adapt strategies in a changing political climate. – Kirsty McNeil, Save the Children

4.00 The future of the British Party Politics: The political party system as we know it is slowly changing, with the establishment of a new party and a lack of discipline within the established mainstream parties. Professor Tim Bale will take attendees through what the current parliamentary arithmetic means for policy making and how the party system could become more fragmented.- Tim Bale, Queen Marys University 

4.30 Close of conference and Wonkhe 360 drinks reception