Friday, 14 October 2011

The Interim Regulatory Partnership Group Meets

And the papers are here. Pretty thin, to be frank, although how much of that is down to a desire not to put sensitive matters on paper I can't say for certain.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Duke Street

Education Investor reports that the private equity firm Duke Street are seeking to enter the UKHE market. Duke Street already have investments in the private post-secondary sector in Europe through EduServices, but their portfolio in the UK does not yet include such a company.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The University of Wales: more parallels with London

I posted a few days ago about the strong position which Leighton Andrews currently enjoys in relation to the future of the University of Wales. Clearly he knows that as well as I do, for he has now called for the resignation of the Chair of Council something over which - technically - he has no control whatsoever. A minister can no more arrange the resignation of a member of a chartered university's Council than he can fire a local scoutmaster.

Here, rather than Wales providing a precedent for London, London provides a precedent for Wales in the form of the London Metropolitan controversy. In that case HEFCE were put to immense difficulty to secure the resignation of the VC and Board, despite the clear case that public funds had been misallocated, the very severe consequent financial and reputational harm done to London Met, and the very strong leverage HEFCE had through control of future grant flows. In this case, the Minister controls little direct grant to the University of Wales as is (£704,000 in 2009/10), but rather more if you add the two other merger partners into the mix. Moreover whilst at London Met Governors and VC stood together, here Leighton Andrews is clearly seeking to separate them and side with the new VC as part of a new regime.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Even at the time, the resistance of the London Met governors seemed astonishing to me, but here the personal responsibility of the Chair of Council is obscure at best. In England there was very strong institutional resistance to allowing the London Met case to form a precedent, but perhaps in Wales institutional leaders are going to be fired with enthusiasm?

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The public university: what is there to defend?

Guildford-TeachingI haven't previously commented on the alternative White Paper A defence of public higher education. At least as I understand it, the alternative White Paper and the associated campaign aren't really intended to have a near-term impact on the workaday business of funding and regulating Higher Education. For instance if you search for the phrase 'student numbers' you'll only find it twice, both times in the context of descriptions of the Government's plans and intentions. I understand this as a campaign with a longer-term view aimed at developing a political narrative that challenges the market-oriented perspective that has informed recent HE policy making by pretty much all parties. (Of course market-oriented narratives don't always lead to free market policies. As the alternative WP notes, the current Government's policy is certainly not a free market policy).

Friday, 7 October 2011

More adventures in Wales

The situation in Wales continues to provide interesting illustrations of the intersection between university autonomy, regulation and pure politics.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The University of Wales

Like many English people, to my shame I am only intermittently aware of Wales. My reaction on reading that the University of Wales was to get out of the validation business was therefore one of bewilderment. What else does it do? This is on a par with Apple getting out of the consumer electronics business. You can see from the accounts that over £10 million of the 9/10 revenue (which was only just over £15 million in total) came from this source - more if you count the federal support grants from University of Wales member institutions and the Funding Council grants that presumably relate mostly to this function.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Interim Regulatory Partnership Group

HEFCE and the SLC have established an Interim Regulatory Partnership Group. The role of the group is to manage the transition to the brave new world of regulation.

HEFCE's website tells us that
at the first meeting the group agreed the following programme of work:
  • to map the current higher education system, so that there is a clear understanding of the contribution made by all the organisations and how they interact with universities, colleges and individual students
  • to review the way that data is collected and used at present.
Two points are of interest to me about this group.