Higher Education and Research Bill poses a serious threat to the HE sector

Glasgow North West MP Carol Monaghan has said that the UK Government’s Higher Education and Research Bill poses a “serious threat” to the international reputation of the UK HE sector in a debate in the House of Commons today (19th July).

The Bill proposes to reshape the UK research funding landscape, bringing together the seven Research Councils into one new body – UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – and establish a new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) which can uplift tuition fees.

The National Union of Students have said that the Bill would “present significant risks” to the values of the current HE sector in Scotland.

Monaghan, a former Glasgow University lecturer and the SNP’s Westminster Group Leader for Public Services and Education, also called upon the UK Government to make an immediate guarantee that the statuses of all EU students studying in the UK will be protected.

Commenting, Monaghan said:

“The SNP joins other parties in having concerns about many aspects of the Higher Education and Research Bill. While we welcome attempts to increase diversity and access to HE, this Bill does not go far enough and poses a serious threat to the international reputation of the UK HE sector. To press ahead with this Bill at the current time when HE is already experiencing great uncertainty due to Brexit is both reckless and damaging.

“There are significant differences in the HE sector in Scotland compared to its counterparts in the rest of the UK. The SNP is supportive of the UK Government’s proposals to improve the standard of teaching through the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), but stresses the need to consider the unique educational provision in Scotland. Scottish Ministers will seek to work with the UK Government to ensure that it will be of no detriment to Scottish HEIs to participate in the new TEF.

“Although Scottish HE providers will not be bound by this Bill, there are concerns that by not participating in the TEF, Scottish universities will be disadvantaged when it comes to attracting international students – a crucial source of funding for all HE institutions.  These students could potentially and erroneously view an English university with a strong TEF rating as offering a better quality of experience than a Scottish university with no TEF rating.

“Proposals to reform the UK Research Council may have implications for HE institutions in Scotland, and we have concerns about the potential short and long-term consequences for Scotland’s research base. The existing Research Councils are well respected by their communities and clearly effective in delivering world-leading research. Mergers or changes to this structure at this time could prove distracting to the research councils and ultimately could negatively impact upon the UK’s research capability.

“The outcome of the EU Referendum will have serious implications for the university sector and the UK Government must work with the Scottish Government to ensure that Scottish HEIs are not adversely impacted given Scotland voted clearly to remain in the EU. The sector is already facing significant financial instability, placing overseas student recruitment at risk. I call again upon the UK Government to make an immediate guarantee that the statuses of all EU students studying in the UK will be protected.”

Watch Carol’s speech here: