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Interventionism is suddenly all the rage with the Westminster Conservative government, and higher education is feeling the impact as new policies and legislation are brought to bear on the sector, writes Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of Push and of the Engineering Professors’ Council.
Mike Boxall, an independent researcher and consultant on higher education policies and strategies, and a senior adviser to PA Consulting, considers the emerging post-COVID world and its implications for the future of universities. His blog is based on a paper published recently by PA Consulting, and co-authored with its HE lead, Ian Matthias.
The passage of the Higher Education and Research Bill through parliament should be paused and its proposals re-considered in light of the impact of Brexit on the sector, the chair of the House of Commons Business Innovation and Skills Committee has said.
Concerns over how the referendum result will affect UK higher education are so great that the BIS Committee is launching an inquiry into it.
The Committee’s chair Iain Wright, the MP for Hartlepool, warned that universities business models will face significant challenges in the run up to Brexit.
With the second reading of the Higher Education and Research Bill currently postponed, it is time to “pause and reflect on whether the proposals contained in the Bill address the post-Brexit challenges Britain’s universities face”, he said.
Writing for the Politics Home website, Wright pointed out that UK universities are already being excluded from some pan-European bids for research funding.
“With this uncertainty, the government needs to act clearly and decisively, providing as much clarity as possible to ensure universities do not miss out on research funding,” he said.
There is also “huge uncertainty” over whether staff and students from the EU can continue to work and study in Britain.
The government should “send out an early and clear signal that the openness and quality of our higher education sector will not be compromised by any restrictions in the freedom of movement”.
He added that ministers should also take the opportunity to take international students out of net migration targets, and revisit post-study visa arrangements to make it easier for overseas students to work in the UK for a period after graduating.
Concerns over the uncertain status of EU staff and students have also been expressed by Cambridge University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, who has has called for clarity from the government, after Home Secretary and Conservative leader candidate Theresa May raised questions over the right of EU citizen workers and students to stay in Britain following Brexit.
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