Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Saved by the Bill?

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Saved by the Bill?

Article excerpt

Nicola Dandridge explains how the measures announced in last week's Queen's Speech will affect UK universities

The immediate response at Universities UK to the general election result was twofold. The first reaction was to wonder what a majority Conservative government might mean in practice, rather than the hung parliament predicted by all the polls. The second involved going back to read the Conservative manifesto in a new light. This will now be the government's blueprint for the next five years.

Now that the government has set out its programme in the Queen's Speech - the first from an all-Conservative government in nearly two decades - what are the main points that will impact on universities?

The speech was, as expected, light on measures relating specifically to higher education. However, the impact of new policies on immigration, extremism, the European Union, devolution and the forthcoming spending review will all have substantial indirect impact.

The tight fiscal environment will colour much of the government's approach over the next five years. It has been estimated that non-protected departments will face cuts of 33 per cent up to 2018-19, if current ring fences continue. This means we must make the case powerfully for government investment in skills and our world-leading research - on which much of the UK's long-term growth potential depends - to enable the sector to contribute even more to the economy and society.

With some seeing higher education as "awash with cash" and "a sector ripe for cuts", the sector must work even harder to demonstrate to policymakers, students, parents and others how seriously it has engaged with efficiencies and cost reduction, highlighting the substantial savings already made.

The reforms to be made in the new Immigration Act - introducing a "deport first, appeal later" approach - may make the UK even less attractive for migrants. Although not specifically part of the Queen's Speech, the Conservative manifesto talked of further restrictions and reforms to the student visa regime, including a review of the highly trusted sponsor status system and "new measures to tackle abuse" and reduce the number of those who overstay student visas. …

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