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Higher Education and Research Bill - Report (1st Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 6th March 2017.

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 7:00 pm, 6th March 2017

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Brown, has introduced this important group of amendments with great skill. Like the questions we had earlier on institutional autonomy, this issue was raised by a substantial number of individual institutions as being a barrier to them engaging more widely with the purposes of the Bill. It became a bit of a block to progress. We had a good go at it in Committee and we have had several meetings with the Minister, the Minister from the other place and the Bill team.

As the noble Baroness said, the Government have not only stood up to the plate and agreed to move on this but they have actually gone a little further. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Brown, I commend the idea that, within this apportionment between individual institutions and the sector, individual institutions have academic standards reserved to them. There is an implication that that work will not be deemed satisfactory unless it is done through collaboration, the development of an appropriate process and bringing forward something which we do not currently see—a better understanding of how every individual institution is not only independent and autonomous but part of a wider whole.

In that sense, this plays back to our debates on new Clause 1, which has been inserted in the Bill and which deals with the much wider context in which higher education institutions—universities particularly, in this case—must operate. We are very pleased with these amendments. We support them and look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.