Will putting schools, colleges & universities under one roof improve English Education?

With the passing of the second reading of the Higher Education Bill in the House of Commons on Tuesday 19 July, UK Higher Education steps closer to the creation of new universities by ‘new providers’ as well as the raising of tuition fees. This comes on the back of government reorganisation which ends the separation of schools from colleges and universities, whilst moving university ‘research’ and ‘teaching’ under different departments. All change then…

Author of recently published ‘Betraying a Generation: How education is failing young people’ Patrick Ainley, explains the potential impact of these changes

Patrick Ainley

Patrick Ainley, author of Betraying a generation

A little remarked feature of Theresa May’s new order is the amalgamation of schools with further and higher education in a unified Department for Education.

Like my book, the enlarged Department covers everything from primary to postgraduate schools, including training. It ends the previous unclear division of schools from colleges and universities – criticisms of which under the Coalition were not pressed too far lest they ended in Michael Gove running FHE and training as well as schools!

However, the reorganisation leaves research within what is now the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy.

This separation of research from teaching will switch the focus within English universities away from the previously privileged research towards prioritising teaching. Or at least meeting the targets specified in the Teaching Excellence Framework proposed by the Higher Education and Research Bill that passed its second Commons reading on Tuesday.

Reduce undergraduate numbers

Loss of European research funding is anticipated despite concentrating domestic research funding in a new unitary body. Student recruitment will also be hit by Brexit just as student achievement, retention and widening participation becomes vital for higher education institutions’ survival in competition with the new private providers that the Bill aims to encourage, offering two-year degrees and other qualifications at lower cost. This will reduce undergraduate numbers or at least allow some universities to charge higher fees while many charge less or go out of business.

Management buy-outs and corporate buy-ins of universities are also expected. Student numbers in Higher Education ‘proper’ will then be reduced as places there become more expensive, while being separated from the mass higher education that has colonised areas of vocational education and training which were traditionally the preserve of FE colleges. This tendency is heightened by closures and mergers of FE colleges accelerated through the processes of area review.

Grammar schools

Meanwhile, the new Secretary of State for this unified Department of Education, Justine Greening, has declared her ‘open-mindedness’ about restoring grammars schools (BBC News 17/7/16), despite her own comprehensive schooling.

Nick Timothy, Mrs May’s special adviser, is also in favour. They see reintroducing grammars as a way to restart upward social mobility, boosting ‘social justice’.

“a magic solution… to somehow conjure German-style productive industry out of the UK’s deregulated economy.”

It is a magic solution like that behind the policy consensus on ‘rebuilding a vocational route’ – and ‘apprenticeships’ in particular – to somehow conjure German-style productive industry out of the UK’s deregulated economy.

Cameron promised 3 million ‘apprenticeships’ in 2015 as an alternative to HE but post-Brexit employers will likely be excused the £3bn levy to pay for them so that they will predictably collapse into a poor replica of the 1980s Youth Training Scheme.

Those who want a return to selective secondary state schooling – whether grammar and/or technical schools – do not understand that this is not necessary now that the National Curriculum crams everyone with ‘a grammar school education for all’.


Michael Gove seemed genuinely deluded that this was possible, despite the fact that, by definition, grammar schooling – like private schooling – is premised on the selection of a minority. Gove thought that if starting points were equalised by the same schooling for everyone – although the exemption from the National Curriculum for private and free schools is inconsistent with this – ‘fair outcomes’ could be achieved.

“In the…new market state, schools are semi-privatised but state-subsidised..”

His successor, Nicky Morgan who lost her place in the Cabinet after supporting Gove’s leadership bid, only diverged slightly from his program by succumbing to pressure from her Party to allow a grammar school in Tonbridge to open an ‘annex’ 10 miles away in Sevenoaks. If this passes judicial review, it may set a precedent for other surviving grammar schools to open similar offshoots, perhaps leading to chains of academically selective state-funded grammar schools as their opponents fear. Or the 1998 law against new grammars could be revoked as Greening has intimated.

In the familiar formula of the new market state, schools are semi-privatised but state-subsidised so they are free from ‘bureaucratic’ local authority control. Instead, in a national system nationally and no longer locally administered, schools are contracted out from the centre, or, as this becomes increasingly remote and bureaucratic, delegated to the oversight of an additional layer of appointed regional commissioners.

These ‘independent state schools’ are not required to follow the National Curriculum, and they enjoy other ‘freedoms’, such as not having to employ trained teachers. They are also completely removed from any local democratic accountability, and under the proposed Education and Adoption Bill will lose even locally appointed school governors.

So Justine Greening’s ‘open-mindedness’ about bringing back grammar schools will not restart upward social mobility any more than David Cameron’s phoney ‘apprenticeships’ could create a productive economy. Moreover, separating teaching from research in higher education shows HE Minister, Jo Johnson, knows nothing about either of them.

Instead, the Campaigns to Save Our Schools and for Public Universities oppose more competition and division in schools, colleges and universities. To stop failing young people they need to be more than administratively integrated while also retaining national teacher pay scales in schools.

#HEbill #TEF

Betraying a generation [FC]Betraying a generation: How education is failing young people by Patrick Ainley can be purchased here from the Policy Press website for special 20% discounted price £7.99.

Remember that Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – if you’re not a member of our community why not sign up here today?

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Is it time to refocus planning education?

…ask Kate Henderson and Hugh Ellis in today’s guest blog, enthusiastically calling for a renewed focus on the British utopian tradition of planning as a tool to drive progressive change in society.

Kate Henderson

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive of the Town and Country Planning Association

Hugh Ellis

Hugh Ellis, Head of Policy, Town and Country Planning Association

There is much that is admirable in planning education but as town planning has rapidly declined in England, many of the country’s planning schools which support it have struggled to recruit UK students.

Some planning schools have amalgamated with other departments and changed focus, even changed names in an attempt to broaden their appeal, but this has also raised questions about how much of the planning project they are actually teaching.

One of the most discouraging pieces of feedback we have heard from visiting planning schools across England is that they no longer teach the ‘British utopian tradition’ in any real depth. A lecture here or there is totally inadequate given that this tradition is the foundation of the ethical purpose of planning. Continue reading ‘Is it time to refocus planning education?’

Power to the people? The renewed importance of localism in England today

In her new book Locating Localism: Statecraft, citizenship and democracy academic and today’s guest blogger Jane Wills, takes a thorough look at the history and geography of the British state, its internal divisions of political power and the emergence of localism as a new form of statecraft. In the aftermath of the EU referendum and the rapid appointment of Theresa May as Prime Minister Wills explains why now more than ever the localism debate needs to be brought to the fore….

Jane Wills

Jane Wills, Queen Mary, University of London

In her speech on the steps of Downing Street on 13th July 2016, our new Prime Minister, Theresa May, promised to govern in the interests of the whole country, staking her tent on the middle ground.  In committing to govern in the interests of the many not the few she promised to “do everything we can to give you more control over your lives”.

This call for ‘control’ played large in the EU referendum as well. The leave campaigners argued that it was time to ‘take back control’ and now Theresa May is promising to ‘give us control’. There are few details about what this control will look like but in many ways the language is in keeping with debates that were already well underway. Continue reading ‘Power to the people? The renewed importance of localism in England today’

16 ways we can make America a better place

Author and academic Salvatore Babones believes passionately in the possibility of a better America. So passionately in fact he can list 16 policy changes that if the next President of the USA adopted, he’s confident that America would be a better and happier place…

Salvatore Babones

Salvatore Babones

As the 2016 election season moves on from the party primaries to the main event, one thing is clear: no one is really satisfied.

Sanders supporters resent Hillary Clinton almost as much as most Republicans loathe Donald Trump. In marked contrast to Bernie Sanders, both Clinton and Trump have disapproval ratings over 50 percent. The electorate is in a bloody mood, with more people likely to vote against their more detested candidate than to vote for someone they actually want to be president.

Why was Bernie Sanders, an uncharismatic Washington insider who has been a member of Congress for more than a quarter century, the only candidate in the pack to escape the opprobrium of the American people? Sanders had no campaign money, no image-makers, and no ‘super-delegates’. What he had was a policy agenda — a progressive agenda for a better America.

Published just days before Bernie Sanders declared his candidacy for the White House, my book Sixteen for ’16: A Progressive Agenda for a Better America laid out an agenda that would be startlingly familiar to Sanders supporters.

In a nutshell, the book details a platform for more jobs, better infrastructure, public education, universal healthcare, higher taxes on higher incomes, a more secure Social Security, an end to rule from Wall Street, strong unions, a living minimum wage, paid sick days, fewer prisons, secure reproductive rights, secure voting rights, a more moral foreign policy, support for refugees, and action to stop global warming.

This short video lays out the Sixteen for ’16 agenda point by 16 points. For those who buy the book itself, 267 footnotes provide links to all the studies that (taken together) make it very clear that a progressive America would be a better America. I challenge every American to look in the mirror and ask: if we really implemented all 16 policies advocated in Sixteen for ’16, would America be a better place? If the answer is ‘yes’ (and I believe it is), let’s get over politics and get started implementing.


Sixteen for 16 [FC]Sixteen for ’16: A Progressive Agenda for a Better America by Salvatore Babones can be purchased here from the Policy Press website for special 20% discounted price £7.99.

Remember that Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – if you’re not a member of our community why not sign up here today?

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

What does Brexit mean for Social Policy in the UK?

This blog was originally posted on the IPR Blog, University of Bath entitled ‘After the Referendum: Picking up the bits’. With thanks to Professor Graham Room (who was one of our very first Policy Press authors!) for granting us permission to reblog the post below.

In today’s guest blog Professor Graham Room argues that if we are to manage the social changes of the 21st Century successfully and with public consent, a new social contract is needed, one which mobilises the energies and talents of all sections of society and that goes well beyond traditional welfare systems…

What have we learned from this referendum campaign, the passions and fears that it unleashed?

Were the electorate truly energised by the question, to leave or remain, or were they asking quite other questions than that on the ballot paper? Was this a national – and rational – debate about our membership of the European Union – or a mix of quite different hopes and especially fears, using this referendum as a brief opportunity to express themselves?

These questions arise most fundamentally for Labour, as they sense the gap that has opened up, between the internationalism of their London-based elite and their traditional supporters in the Midlands and the North. If Cameron, with his divided party, was forced to look Left for some hope, Labour was itself forced to look to its progressive middle class and younger supporters. Continue reading ‘What does Brexit mean for Social Policy in the UK?’

Policy Press celebrates 20 years of publishing with a purpose…..in style!

Policy Press officially celebrated our 20th Anniversary of ‘publishing with a purpose’ on Wednesday 22nd June with a party at Goldney Hall, University of Bristol. It was a wonderful evening at which we were joined by authors, staff, and supporters – both past and present. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

With special thanks to Ruth Harrison, Victoria Pittman and Julia Mortimer for the photographs of the evening. Continue reading ‘Policy Press celebrates 20 years of publishing with a purpose…..in style!’

Michael Gove’s unfinished Agenda for Education…and beyond?

Michael Gove has said he is standing for the Tory leadership out of ‘conviction not ambition’. In today’s guest blog post author and academic Patrick Ainley suggests further insights into Gove’s wider agenda for education and beyond…

Patrick Ainley

Patrick Ainley

In 2005, 23 male Conservative MPs, MEPs, candidates and activists connected to the Centre for Policy Studies, published a 100 page pamphlet called DIRECT DEMOCRACY: An Agenda for a New Model Party.

The pamphlet has the marks of Gove all over it.

However, despite his usual sprinkling of obscure references, Gove is no intellectual. He merely shares the standard Tory faith in the unique instincts of the Great British people who only need to be freed from state interference to recreate once again wonders of the past like the Industrial Revolution and the British Empire.

Unbundling the state

In this pamphlet therefore Gove begins by indicating how far the UK was from its glorious past by 2005 after successive Tory electoral defeats. Continue reading ‘Michael Gove’s unfinished Agenda for Education…and beyond?’

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