‘The government is set for conflict with the House of Lords next week over plans to allow more institutions to become universities and award degrees.
A cross-party group of peers led by the former Conservative chairman Lord Patten of Barnes is trying to force the government to drop proposals that they say would open universities up to political interference.
Lord Patten, chancellor of Oxford University since 2003, wrote in The Observer. “It seems ham-fisted to turn the academic world upside down when universities face so much turbulence and uncertainty after the Brexit vote and the rhetoric surrounding immigration.”
Peers have tabled amendments to the higher education bill, which reaches committee stage next Monday, including demands that universities be “autonomous” bodies that work for the public good, are free to criticise government, and are not profit-seeking.’ - The Times
‘Labour’s shadow higher education minister Lord Stevenson also told the newspaper: “This bill is an attempt from the Government to run a market experiment through the bloodstream of our university system, and a classic case of understanding the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
“There is far more to higher education than financial transactions and bottom lines, including the ongoing contribution made to society and business through the application of new knowledge and expertise.
“Our amendment calls on ministers to recognise all of this and enshrine in law the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech, alongside protecting the sector’s ability to act as society’s conscience.”
Government ministers say the bill is designed to widen choice for students and deliver value for money in line with tuition fees.
The bill would also allow a new Office for Students more power over traditional university hierarchies, a move Lord Patten said would give the ability to strip older universities of their ancient royal charters.’ - Independent