The HE Bill: The Final Ditch

Before parliament is prorogued on 3 May, ahead of the 8 June general election, the British government is hoping to ram through its disastrous Higher Education and Research Bill (HERB) in the so-called “wash up” period.

I have written here several times on this Bill, the most notorious aspects of which are the introduction of a “teaching excellence framework” (TEF), which would be linked to future fee increases, and the accelerated marketisation of HE, which will threaten both the quality of education and the financial sustainability of many departments and even whole universities.

While the government refused all amendments proposed by the Labour party in Commons committee (Labour’s team, led by Gordon Marsden MP, has been excellent on this issue throughout), it suffered heavy defeats in the Lords, where many significant amendments were introduced. These temper or even sabotage some of the worst aspects of the Bill, notably by severing the link between the TEF and fees; subjecting TEF to rigorous statistical scrutiny and rejecting crude rankings (gold, silver and bronze); and creating tougher tests before private providers can attain university title. The Lords even introduced two completely new, progressive amendments. The first restores the block-registration of students on the electoral roll, which was terminated under the 2014 Individual Electoral Registration protocol, leading to 920,000 people dropping off the roll, many of them students. Even more significantly, the second amendment removes overseas students from immigration statistics. This is important not only to stop the repeated crackdowns on overseas students, but also heads off a potential link between TEF scores and the right to recruit overseas. The move to reclassify foreign students has widespread public support, and has even attracted support from Tory rebels, so might have a good chance of overturning Theresa May’s fanatical and irrational intransigence on this issue.

For a full summary of the amendments and why they are important, see the briefing I have produced for the Convention for Higher Education.

For a template letter you can send to your MP, click here. It will take you less than five minutes.

This really is the final ditch. Please contact your MP, and ask as many people as you can do to the same.


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