Category / policy

This part of the blog features news and information about higher education policy and how BU’s research is influencing policy.

Higher Education and Research Bill update

The HE and Research Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords yesterday and has now moved to the Lords Committee stage – battle lines were drawn.  It was a long debate, but if you weren’t able to watch it or follow the live tweeting, you can read the full debate in Hansard here.  At the committee stage (no dates available yet) amendments will be tabled and discussed in great detail.

The Bill has only had government amendments approved so far, and there has been a lot of criticism (of and by everyone) of the level of scrutiny so far – with time being severely limited in committee and third reading stage in the Commons, with all opposition amendments  rejected.  But as you saw from my update on the third reading in the Commons, the debate there centered largely on Brexit, student visas, TEF, and loans (none of which are actually covered by the Bill), with very little actual focus on the bill itself.

It is expected that the Lords, while they will discuss those issues as well, will also focus on the bill itself, particularly on the changes to the research landscape, but also on degree awarding powers and other aspects of autonomy – and that was reflected yesterday, as well as discussions about the TEF.

UUK have update their briefing note to focus on what they want from the Lords – read it here – it lists the same 7 issues as for the House of Commons third reading, so it is interesting to see that they have flagged three in particular in a joint letter to the Guardian with GuildHE, calling for the Lords to amend the Bill to address probationary degree awarding powers, to stop the OfS validating degrees and to stop the government interfering in academic standards and course funding.

It has long been expected that fees, loans and the linking of TEF to fees, will be a feature of the Lords debate – Wes Streeting wrote about student loan repayment yesterday: Wes Streeting MP: Labour Lords will fight student loan repayment ‘scandal’

Science and Technology Committee – Leaving the EU report

The House of Commons Science and Technology committee’s report into leaving the EU has been published.

To quote the main points from the summary:

  • “The Government has provided some helpful and welcome short-term reassurances in relation to underwriting EU funding for research and maintaining access to student loans, but the Government’s strategy for communicating these recent announcements is insufficient.”
  • “we are not convinced that the needs of science and research are at the heart of the Department for Exiting the European Union’s (DExEU) thinking and planning for Brexit. Science should have a strong voice as part of the negotiations. DExEU needs a Chief Scientific Adviser urgently. The Government should also involve the interim Chair of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)”
  • “the Government should now act to reduce uncertainty by setting out a vision for science. This should include commitments to raise science expenditure as a percentage of GDP (as we have previously urged).  It should also include measures to attract skilled researchers and students, to be taken forward in Brexit negotiations separately from immigration controls more broadly, and should include an immediate commitment to exempt EU researchers already working here from any wider potential immigration controls.”
  • “The Government must also seek to capitalise on the opportunities of Brexit, including in terms of setting regulations to facilitate accessing markets and research collaborations beyond the EU.”

On the EU funding guarantee, the report concludes that this is helpful to provide reassurance but that it doesn’t go very far, because it would be strange if the EU were not required to honour its contractual commitments under awards made before the UK leaves the EU and so it is unlikely that there will ever be a call under the guarantee.  However, given that there was widespread concern – whether justified or not – in the summer, the guarantee has been given in order to encourage people to keep bidding and to provide reassurance of the government’s commitment to mitigating these potential direct negative effects of Brexit.  However, if this is its main purpose, the report notes that it hasn’t really been communicated very well – hence the high level point noted in the report’s summary.

What matters to science and research?  The report highlights 5 main issues:

  • Funding – e.g. on-going participation in H2020 after Brexit or a UK replacement for it
  • People – guarantees for those already here and attracting EU researchers after Brexit, and Erasmus
  • Collaboration – being able to participate in international projects and influence the EU research agenda
  • Regulation – influencing EU regulation which might otherwise stifle innovation
  • Facilities – access for UK researchers to EU facilities

Note on people that the Education Committee are running a separate inquiry into the impact of Brexit on staff and students, and we have just submitted evidence – read it here.  The report notes that it is not clear whether Brexit will mean that EU staff become subject to the same controls as international staff – and of course there is about to be a new consultation on what the controls for international employees are going to be.

The report calls for a specific guarantee for staff already in post.  Note that Jo Johnson made helpful noises about this in the House of Commons this week – he “expects” that this assurance will be given but it depends on reciprocity (so it will come later in the negotitations?).

Royal Geographical Society-BU joint event at the EBC -17th Nov

neptuneHave you thought about how much our landscapes have changed in the last 50 years?

The National Trust owns 775 miles of our coastline and you can hear about the changes they have mapped between 1965 and 2015 on a seminar organised by the Royal Geographical Society, this Thu 17th Nov, 7.00-8.30pm at the Executive Business Centre (room EB708).

50 years of the National Trust Neptune Project: coastal land use and maps

Karin Taylor (Head of Land Use Planning, National Trust) and Huw Davies (Head of Conservation Information, National Trust) present an overview of the coastal land use changes mapped during the 50 years of the Neptune Project. The lecture will discuss the fascinating impacts of town and country planning, the National Trust ownership, and the difference in survey techniques used between 1965 and 2015.

To mark the 50th anniversary of Enterprise Neptune (a major appeal to fund the acquisition of pristine coastal land) the National Trust commissioned a re-survey of a coastal land use survey that was completed of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish coastlines in 1965.  Comparative analysis of the two surveys provide insightful evidence of the changes in land use that have occurred between 1965 and 2015, and the impacts of both the advent of town and country planning and the consequences of national Trust ownership. The lecture will also show differences in the survey techniques between then (geography students armed with maps, pencils, walking boots and tents) and now (GIS and other desk-based techniques).

For more information and tickets, please click here (free for RGS-IBG members, students and university staff, others £5):