Messages the government will want to hear

Instead of telling the government what to give them HE lobbies could ask ministers what they want

The new government will not think it owes higher education anything so the sector needs a new approach to get back into the policy game, suggest observers wise in the ways of the min wing.

Some suggest the sector needs to change the terms of engagement, by asking what the government wants and then setting out what they need to deliver it.

This would be a way to stop payback from ministers who see campus as hostile ground and it would allow universities to tailor their requests to specific targets. One observer suggests the science and medical research lobbies get this and are well-positioned to work with the health and innovation ministers.

Good-o but will Education Minister Tehan have mayhem on his mind? All analysts CMM spoke to yesterday agreed that if the prime minister wanted to hammer universities he would not have announced during the campaign Mr Tehan would stay in the portfolio if the government was returned. “If he wanted to punish the system he would have saved it for an ideological hardhead,” one says.

Even so, this is not a good position for people who continue committed to demand driven funding for undergraduate places, given the general view of observers is that it is not coming back.

The new challenge is to position the system for positive outcomes from the three big reviews due ear lythis term, Wellings on performance and incentives, Noonan on the qualifications framework and Coaldrake on provider standards.  “The government does not like unis but it knows its voters want their children to attend one.  We have to keep the focus on education need,” an observer suggests.

A good – and achievable – result, will be a government ready to listen to university ideas for a sustainable funding system after 2020.  “It’s time for a bit of “yes minister” – but not in a Sir Humphrey sense,” a veteran of funding negotiations says.


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