Higher Education & Research Bill – peers vote on amendment – expert explanation

During a House of Lords committee stage hearing peers voted by 248 to 221, majority 27, in favour of an opposition amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill, demanding that universities remain “autonomous” bodies and free to criticise the Government.

It also specified universities “must provide an extensive range of high-quality academic subjects delivered by excellent teaching”, as well as making “a contribution to society”.

Expert reaction from William Locke, Reader in Higher Education Studies, Director, Centre for Higher Education Studies (CHES),Deputy Director, Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), Department of Education, Practice and Society, UCL Institute of Education, University College London

“University autonomy is a longstanding principle in higher education, and the evidence suggests that those national systems that cultivate this principle produce some of the most successful universities.

However, there are dangers, too, in defining what a university is, for now and forever. That actually seems to contradict the principle of autonomy that the peers are trying to protect. For example, why shouldn’t there be a specialist university, say, in the creative arts and design? The wording in the Bill needs to be carefully considered so that it doesn’t become more restrictive than the legislation it will replace.”

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