‘Peers have defeated controversial government reforms of higher education that would have made it easier for new profit-making colleges to award degrees and become universities.
Labour, Liberal Democrat and crossbench peers in the House of Lords passed an amendment to scupper reforms to the higher education and research bill by 248 votes to 221, voicing fears that they would unacceptably commercialise the sector by allowing private colleges to profit from awarding degrees.
Ministers argued that the bill would raise standards by increasing competition, by “making it easier for new high-quality providers to start up and achieve degree-awarding powers, and subsequently secure university status”.
Led by Wilf Stevenson of Labour, peers tabled amendments demanding universities are barred from seeking profit and remain autonomous bodies, with entrenched academic and political freedom, forcing a rare committee-stage vote. The amendment passed by peers would effectively limit the powers of the new providers that the government had intended to create. More than 500 in total were tabled.
“The purpose of our amendment is simple: the bill does not define a university and we think it is important that it does,” Lord Stevenson wrote. “We do not simply itemise some core functions of a university but also scope out the role, with implicit ideals of responsibility, engagement and public service.”
University leaders had warned that the bill gave the newly created Office of Students the power to revoke acts of parliament or royal charters that led to the creation of universities, including historic institutions like Oxford and Cambridge.’ - The Guardian
‘Such a vote is rare in committee stage. The amendment was debated over several hours in the Lords today - the first of 516 such amendments tabled.
Defeat for the government could mean that universities and science minister Jo Johnson may feel he has to make changes to the proposed legislation.
Baroness Wolf of Dulwich, who is Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management at King's College London and a crossbench peer, supported the amendment and said it was curious that the Bill "has nothing to say about universities", urging that it should "make it clear what we believe a university is".’ - Times Higher Education