In this contribution regarding the second amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill Lord Bilimoria states his support for it and stresses the importance of the autonomy of universities. He argues that in the UK we have the correct mix of private and public funding which allows for the best of both worlds and grants autonomy which should not be jeopardised.
Higher Education and Research Bill
09 January 2017
Moved by: Lord Stevenson regarding the inclusion of a Second Amendment which would insert a Clause before Clause One
“UK universities: establishment
(1) UK universities must be bodies corporate, primarily located in the United Kingdom, and established on a not-for-profit basis. (2) UK universities are public bodies, contributing to society through the pursuit of education, learning, and research at high levels of excellence.(3) UK universities (whether established by Act of Parliament, Royal Charter or by the Privy Council) may be awarded degree awarding powers in accordance with sections 40 to 50. (4) Private universities, colleges of further education and other higher education providers established by Act of Parliament may be awarded degree awarding powers in accordance with sections 40 to 50.(5) Only bodies under subsection (3) or (4) which have met the criteria relevant to the granting of degree awarding powers under section 40(1B) for at least four years may be registered as higher education providers, in accordance with section 3.”
My Lords, I rise to support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Kerslake on institutional autonomy. In passing the new clause earlier today, we have reflected at the beginning of the Bill the spirit of what a university is all about. Although many of us might disagree with the wording of the new clause, its spirit and essence are in place and at its crux is the autonomy of universities. As Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, before Second Reading I consulted our Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Eastwood, who is one of the most respected figures in higher education in this country and probably in the world, frankly. He is also a former head of HEFCE. When I asked him about the Bill, he said, “The UK has a co-regulatory approach that has maintained the autonomy of universities and relies on their own governance arrangements where appropriate, allowing universities such as Birmingham to be flexible and responsive to the needs of their students and employers, including shaping the curriculum in the light of the latest research findings, to think long term about global challenges and remain free from direct political interference. It is vital that that cornerstone of UK higher education is preserved throughout the Bill”. That is absolutely crucial to the whole Bill, and this amendment puts autonomy at the heart of everything.
When Universities UK was consulted about this, it said that in order to be successful, universities need to take their own decisions and indeed it used David Eastwood’s words: “flexible”, “responsive” and “autonomy”. They provide the key competitive advantage of our universities. Who is the number one competitor in the world when it comes to universities? We have the top two institutions, along with the United States of America. Later this week I will be at Harvard Business School, which I have been attending for 15 years because I am an alumnus. Harvard is the wealthiest university in the world by miles. On Saturday I will see new facilities that did not exist a year ago which are the result of $1 billion of investment. The university is very wealthy and privately funded, but there is a huge distinction between state universities in the United States and institutions like Harvard. We have a wonderful mix that gives us the best of both worlds. We have universities that receive state funding but yet have always been autonomous and can do their own thing in their best interests. We must not jeopardise that, so we should support this amendment.
This Ammendment was withdrawn at the end of the debate at the request of Lord Stevenson