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IOE Blog


Expert opinion from IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society


Brexit: UK universities face new world order

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 29 June 2016

Peter Scott.

The UK’s decision to abandon Europe, which is what leaving the European Union amounts to, has come as a shock – not least in the UK where many people who voted ‘out’ never expected to win. Essentially this was a protest vote against immigration, tinged with nationalism and even racism, and austerity, a long delayed but inevitable reaction against the inequalities generated by neoliberal capitalism. The details of the UK’s relationship with the EU as a member state were not particularly important in what was a bad-tempered and nasty referendum campaign. In effect the EU became a whipping boy for larger discontents.
But the die is now cast, even though all the evidence suggests that the great majority of staff and students in universities voted to remain in the EU. There is probably no way back – for England; Scotland is now likely to seek independence and to stay in the EU so breaking up a 300-year-old Union (which paradoxically created the ‘Great Britain’ of which nationalists are so proud). The consequences for UK higher education will be very significant – and almost entirely damaging. One of the most damaging is that the ‘market’ (more…)

HE White Paper: still more inequality

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 17 May 2016

Peter Scott
The White Paper has been received with the usual round of ‘welcomes’ from the higher education ‘establishment’ – rather limp ‘up to a point, Lord Copper’ responses that deceive no one and are probably motivated more by fear of the consequences of open opposition than any sense of conviction. Or perhaps the neo-liberal discourse of ‘universities are knowledge businesses’ and ‘students are customers’ is now so clamorous that it has become almost impossible to think that any other policies are possible.
Certainly it has become difficult to assert some simple truths – that universities are not simply knowledge machines, however great the ‘impact’ of their research; that they are about more than boosting global competitiveness (or lifetime earnings) but are key institutions in the kind of ‘open society’ we urge on lesser breeds in Eastern Europe or the Middle East (but not Saudi Arabia – and certainly not China); and that students are not customers but learners. To say such stuff is to risk being labelled a dinosaur, a leftie or a spokesperson for the ‘producers’ cartel’ / encrusted establishment – or probably all three.
So the only available – short-term – strategy is to attack the detail, and expose the White Paper (more…)

Academics' ability to lobby government under threat from new funding clause

By Blog Editor, IOE Digital, on 25 February 2016

Peter Scott.
There are growing worries in universities that restrictions on the use of public money to lobby the government, initially focused on charities, may have a chilling effect on the independence of publicly funded research. Whether this is ministers’ intention is an open question.
In mid-February, the government announced that a new clause will be inserted into new and renewed grant agreements from May 1, forbidding recipients from “using taxpayer funds to lobby government and parliament”. As well as covering grants to charities to carry out services, this also covers those “funding research and development”.
Pessimists, and conspiracy theorists, discern a pattern of the government displaying alarming authoritarian instincts. Ministers do not seem to recognise the need for (more…)