‘No university should be allowed to go bust’ – Labour’s seven key tests for higher education 

Shadow universities minister Emma Hardy asks Gavin Williamson to meet seven key tests to support UK universities

The Labour Party has launched seven key tests for higher education it says the government must pass to show commitment to UK universities and students.

Writing to education secretary Gavin Williamson, Labour’s shadow further education and universities minister Emma Hardy MP, expressed concern that Mr Williamson’s “recent public comments have thrown doubt on your commitment to the sector and the benefits it brings to all parts of society and that the Higher Education Restructuring Regime plans begin by explicitly stating a willingness on behalf of yourself to see individual universities fail.”

No country has ever increased its prosperity by sending fewer people to university – Emma Hardy MP

In its letter, The Labour Party argues that the government must meet seven key tests to support UK universities as they recover from the pandemic crisis.

Labour’s seven key tests for higher education:

  1. No university should be allowed to go bust and there must be equality of opportunity for all in every region: “Everyone everywhere has the right to the education and training they need. Many local economies rely on the contributions of their university and 30,000 associated jobs are under threat”.
  2. Reduce barriers to learning: “Widening Participation activities ground to a halt under Covid-19, putting access for a whole cohort at risk”.
  3. Protect and enhance domestic and international research: “International student fees cross subsidise research to the tune of £4.2 billion. The UK is a research powerhouse, but that position is now at risk”.
  4. Enhance a co-operative and co-ordinated higher education sector across the whole of the UK: “[the government’s] use of Longitudinal Educational Outcomes (LEO) data focussing on post-graduate salaries discriminates against some regions and presents a skewed picture of the true worth of those universities to their communities”.
  5. Prevent further financial hardship for current students: “No student should get into further debt because of Covid-19”.
  6. Provide comprehensive support for 2020 final year students: “Proposals from the sector include a system of six-month long paid internships at the national living wage which would allow graduates to gain invaluable experience. So far the government has offered nothing”.
  7. Promote universities as civic institutions: “Government must insist every institution develop a clear strategy, with the active participation of local partners, aimed at meeting the needs and opportunities of their area”.

“No country has ever increased economic activity through reducing access to higher education,” said Ms Hardy. “This Government cannot allow any university to fail and it must ensure everyone in every region with the desire to learn has access to a university.

“By passing these seven key tests the government will show commitment to our higher education sector, to our young people, and to our regional economies. Meeting these tests will help guarantee a fairer society and allow aspiration to flourish.”

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