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August 04, 2011

Burying the revolution

The government today published its technical consultation on constitutional reform of the higher education sector. Yawn. I can tell you're bored already.

And why not. Universities have already got a revolution in funding to deal with as tuition fees replace block grants. And the potential for a second, market revolution if ministers can just find a way to get rid of student number controls. What could possibly be as important as these bankrupting threats?

Only something that redefines what a university is, who can offer degrees and all the other fundamental rules of the game.

Welcome to the government's technical consultation on constitutional reform of the higher education sector, potentially the third and biggest revolution and buried so deep in the silly season that they even published it on a Thursday and didn't give the Times Higher a copy in advance. Now there is something you really want to stay buried.

Update 2.30pm

Alan Langland's response to the consultation is intriguing. The HEFCE chief executive clearly knows what the government's vision is. He spells it out in the first paragraph of his quote. But then he goes on to say what HEFCE will aim to do, which is not quite the same.


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They're not screaming about it, but I wouldn't go so far as saying it was buried. I knew it was imminent and everyone else I know in HE policy were already lined up and ready to respond. It wasn't ready in time for the White Paper launch as there was a lot of extra work that had to go into this, particularly with HEFCE.

OK. So BIS + the universities know about it. That's not enough, in my view, to make a proper debate or lay solid foundations for big changes.

Also a couple of people contacted me about my postscript on Alan Langlands. No, I haven't been tipped off about some huge difference of opinion. I can just see, for example, that BIS talk about "consumers" while HEFCE talks about "students".

Fair enough.

I do find that BIS use consumers and students more interchangeably though. I think partly because of the sheer amount of different people involved in written/spoken outputs, more than anything else. HEFCE is a tighter ship and has over the last year or so been deliberately stepping up its rhetoric about 'students' and the championing thereof, in anticipation of a slightly more student-facing role.

Very interesting thoughts about the shift in rhetoric, which I hadn't spotted.

Also, note that @smitajamdar has done a quick series of tweets highlighting the main points from the consultation. See her timeline at http://twitter.com/#!/smitajamdar

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