26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: Universities ‘sitting duck’ for reform

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English universities are likely to come under unprecedented scrutiny as the UK Government turns its attention to how the sector can deliver on Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s Levelling Up agenda.

After the Government’s recent attacks on the British Broadcasting Corporation and criticism of the Public Service, there are fears that universities – which overwhelmingly supported the campaign to remain in the European Union – could find themselves next in the line of fire.

A recent report by the right-wing Policy Exchange think tank, seen as close to Government thinking, said the higher education sector was seen as “out of touch” and “a sitting duck” for the Government.

It claimed universities had lost the faith of the nation in some critical areas and flagged concerns about failures to protect freedom of speech on campus, “low quality” degrees that offered poor economic returns for students, excessive vice-chancellor pay and degree grade inflation.

Vice-Chancellor of Northampton University, Nick Petford (pictured) said universities were getting criticised in some quarters for supporting agendas that did not seem to be in line with the popular direction of the country.

“These get picked up in the right-wing press as evidence that universities are out of touch,” Professor Petford said.

“I am absolutely convinced that is not the case,” he said.

“It’s up to universities to put forward counter-arguments.”

London, 2 March 2020

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