Government Criticised by British Academy After White Paper Lacks Strategic Vision for Universities

student news british academy

Fears for the future of postgraduate training have been outlined by the British Academy following the coalition government’s much criticised new fees regime. In student news that will be only too familiar, respected academics such as Professor Nigel Vincent have been speaking out about the lack of a long term plan for students.

The British Academy, the UK’s national body for the humanities and social sciences, says proposals in the Government’s Higher Education White Paper pose risks for postgraduate study and research, misunderstand the interdependencies of successful universities, and could damage the international reputation of higher education in the UK.

The Academy’s formal response to Students at the Heart of the System, released last week, acknowledges the funding pressures the Government’s proposals seek to address but criticises the radical changes the White Paper offers as short sighted, potentially damaging and failing to offer a long term strategy for universities.

The Academy’s Vice-President for Research and Higher Education, Professor Nigel Vincent, said; ‘The White Paper fails to set out a clear long-term vision for Higher Education in the UK. It imposes radical changes on universities driven by pressures on funding undergraduate teaching, with little regard to their impact on postgraduate study and research or on academic career progression.

‘Increases in tuition fees and levels of graduate debt, despite new loan support and repayment arrangements, could have a negative long-term impact on postgraduate training, and the renewal of the academic profession which depends on it.

‘The White Paper fails to capture the complexity of the contemporary university, in which superb undergraduate teaching, outstanding postgraduate training and world-class research are inextricably intertwined. It is exactly on this blend of activities that the UK’s reputation for excellence in higher education depends. It deserves better than to be threatened by shortsighted and partial financial planning.”

Professor Vincent added; “The White Paper is silent on the public value of university education, including through humanities and social science disciplines. It implies that study at university is only valuable if it leads directly to a higher salary on employment.  I believe this is fundamentally wrong and reveals a limited and impoverished vision of higher education.’

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