Skip to content
The UK's only independent think tank devoted to higher education.

Speech to Policy Exchange Education Conference, 7th June 2014

  • 7 June 2014
  • By Nick Hillman


Higher education policy doesn’t stop at the weekend in think-tank land, at least not when there’s less than a year to a general election. So Policy Exchange hosted an event today looking ahead to the educational policies that might be presented to the electorate in 2015 – see #PXed2015 on twitter for more information on the day.

I participated in a really good panel discussion on higher education alongside Mark Leach (WonkHE), Alan Smithers (University of Buckingham), Rachel Wenstone (National Union of Students) and Thomas Docherty (University of Warwick – though speaking in a personal capacity), which was all chaired excellently by David Matthews of the Times Higher.

The most contentious remarks came from Alan Smithers. He argued for the abolition of the Office for Fair Access and the lifting of the £9,000 fees cap for undergraduate students.

I spoke about the need for a new approach to HE regulation and also student migration. But it was my comments querying whether the National Union of Students should revert to its old (pre-1968) no-politics position – when its constitution limited it to discussing student issues – that sparked a lively twitter discussion afterwards.

There’s, potentially, an interesting debate to be had on whether the average student might feel more inclined to engage with their local students’ union (which they are automatically enrolled into) as well as the wider student-union movement if they were to focus exclusively on issues of importance to all students. The answer may be “no”, not least because it’s quite hard to define what is a student issue and what is not one. However, we won’t know for certain unless the debate has oxygen, so anyone interested can find my comments in the attached sound file (just over five minutes long).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *