In a potentially defining week for UK Education, the Prime Minister has opened up a dialogue which will go on to have major ramifications for future generations. The mooted return of the grammar school system has largely been criticised in most quarters with concerns highlighted for social mobility and the negative impact of selective education. Whilst this news stole the limelight, it was the PM’s new stance on links between Universities and schools which really caught my attention.
Links between the two educational establishments are not a new concept. In fact, several Universities across the country already sponsor local schools, so this was not a surprising announcement (albeit it was unexpected). The major point of interest came when May discussed the penalties for not following the scheme; the debilitating removal of access agreements. This would mean Universities would be unable to charge more than £6,000 for tuition causing a huge financial impact. May’s plans of a connected Education network are bold and open up a major case of risk for the Universities in question. With the specifics of the policy as of yet unknown (it did seem more than a little rushed when presented), many institutions will be left counting the costs, in both time and money, for such a formal relationship.
May’s plans did not end there. Her desires extended to every University sponsoring a school or creating one. In principle the concept works to the extent of stronger relationships between the already closely related school and University. That said, it would causer major delivery changes for the Universities. I previously mentioned those where there already relationships in place. These can be multiple formal relationships, but these changes may now force Universities to only partner with or develop one relationship; an outcome which could ultimately harm more than it helps. The financial impact can potentially be redirected from the money currently used on bursaries and scholarships but the real challenge will be finding people or teams to deliver a policy they may not entirely agree with.
With Justine Greening taking up the Universities brief within the Department for Education, we were always suspecting closer links between compulsory and higher education. The news delivered by the Prime Minister recently though was sooner than anticipated and has created far more questions than answers. With TEF, Brexit and now this to negotiate, the only constant in HE currently is the change.
Gin Bhandal is a Consultant in the Education practice at Berwick Partners. He regularly works with Universities to appoint senior leaders tasked with delivering transformational change across the sector.
Categories: Education Recruitment