Following on from the story published yesterday, The Guardian is reporting that peers have defeated controversial government reforms of higher education that would have made it easier for new free-market colleges to award degrees and become universities.
Labour, Liberal Democrats and crossbench peers in the House of Lords defeated the higher education and research bill by 248 votes to 221, voicing fears that reforms in the bill would unacceptably commercialise the sector by allowing private colleges to profit from awarding degrees.
Ministers argued that the bill would raise standards by increasing competition, by “making it easier for new high-quality providers to start up and achieve degree-awarding powers, and subsequently secure university status”.
Sue Garden, the Liberal Democrat higher education spokeswoman in the Lords, said the bill was “not fit for purpose” and unnecessary when universities were already steeling themselves for pressures on their funding and student numbers after the vote to leave the European Union.
“With this vote today we have taken a step to ensure the independence of universities, free from the political interference of this and future governments.” Garden said.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want more young people to have the opportunity to access a high-quality university education, and the measures proposed in the higher education and research bill are critical to making this possible.
“This bill will drive up the standard of teaching at universities, deliver greater competition and choice for students, while safeguarding institutional autonomy and academic freedom. While today’s result is disappointing, the parliamentary process is ongoing and we look forward to the next stage of the bill process.”
How do you feel about the defeat of the bill? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter. ~ Sophie
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