Politics is transforming rapidly as the Covid crisis grips the government, civil service and media. Universities are playing a critical role in the global fightback against the virus, yet are still struggling to get the air-time needed for long-term support, or for much positive government recognition, as the threat of financial disaster for some beckons. At the same time, there’s increasing chatter about how the government might use this opportunity to realise a long-held ambition to reshape and reform higher education.
Against this backdrop, the daily reality of influencing is changing – meetings are happening online, leading to much stiffer scripted engagements and reduced opportunities for the subtle human crafts of influence and hustle. And with the usual political scene of Westminster drinks and Mayfair dinners on indefinite hold, the backchannel is taking place almost entirely on Whatsapp.
In this morning event, we’ll ask how universities can cut through the noise, use new tools and engage in this shifting landscape and influence policy so that the sector can not just emerge from the crisis intact, but thrive in a post-Covid world.
This Wonkhe @ Home is organised with Public First, a public policy, strategy and communications consultancy with a strong specialism in education, and which works with a number of universities and higher education organisations across England.
09.30 Jonathan Simons, Public First, in conversation with Mark Leach, Wonkhe:
- What’s going on in Whitehall right now?
- Where is policy being driven from?
- What’s cutting through – and why?
- The renewed local, national, regional and devolved political tensions.
10.15 – 10.40 Q&A
11.00 Rachel Wolf, Public First: What we’ve learnt from the frontline of the government’s Covid comms response – where is political opinion and where is public opinion, and what does this mean for HE?
11.30 Re-imagining university political engagement through and after Covid-19 – a panel discussion in which we’ll ask: are the sector’s old representative structures right for a post-Covid world? Are vice-chancellors still the right message carriers? Is there any hope in presenting a united front? What are the right tools for the sector to deploy – learning from the last two months of experimentation. How can we shape the coming reconfiguration rather than having it done to us? What’s happening to other sectors and what can we learn from their approach?
Panel chaired by Debbie McVitty
From the world of education politics:
Wes Streeting – MP and Shadow Exchequer Secretary
Ann Milton – Former Skills Minister
And from HE:
Alex Favier – University of Nottingham
Andy Westwood – University of Manchester
Natalie Day – Sheffield Hallam University