Regulation, Regulation, Regulation

More Regulatory Woes

In University Governance: Questions for a New Era, Professor Malcolm Gillies looks at a whole set of issues around university governance. A previous post noted his suggestion about a greater involvement of alumni but he suggests that they will become more important than the state, at least in governance terms, because of the change in balance of funding from public to private, ie from government to graduate:

42. State denial:  The withdrawal of the state as chief funding agent of higher education creates new balances in governance authority.  The body which can be most expected to fill that space is the alumni, as they now become the chief funding agent of most English universities in direct replacement of that state interest, through their decades-long repayment of state-provided loans.  The alumni also have the greatest, life-long stake in the institution’s reputation and its protection.  They understand the institution’s symbolic value.

But will the reduction in public funding really mean less government involvement in university affairs? Sadly, no. Rather than cuts in government funding to HE resulting in a bonfire of red tape, there is a whole host of new or augmented regulations, including:

  • The new fee arrangements which institutions are all deeply engaged in considering at present
  • Student number controls, which may well change in the light of fee developments
  • The move to more comprehensive annual access agreements with OFFA
  • The changed financial memorandum between institutions and HEFCE
  • New visa arrangements for Tier 2, staff, and Tier 4, students, together with monitoring arrangements for the latter
  • The Key Information Set (KIS) which will require all universities to provide more information to prospective students
  • The proposed introduction of a Student Charter
  • The idea of extended transcript information for all graduates through the Higher Education Achievement Record
  • The revised Quality Assurance Agency institutional review method
  • The increased burden of Freedom of Information requests
  • Developments in the work of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator

Private HE institutions, which are expected to increase in number under the new fee regime, benefit from significantly lighter  regulation. However, for everyone else there remains the seemingly iron law that as government funding declines the volume and range of government regulation inevitably increases. So, less money and ever greater constraints on how it can be spent.

4 thoughts on “Regulation, Regulation, Regulation

  1. Interesting post as I was recently discussing these idea at a recent event.

    I wonder whether private sector industry standards, like BS ISO 26000 Social Responsibility BS EN 16001 Energy Management or BS 25999 Business Continuity Management could benefit universities. Using them could mean there is less time & bother spent creating new private policies in light of recent outside pressures and, hopefully, make life a little easier.

    Would be interested in your thoughts on this concept.

    1. It’s a really good point. Where I struggle with some of the industry standards is in the attempts to apply them directly to education. However, in business areas such as these or indeed in relation to Risk Management, which is one we are looking at (you’ll know the number, can’t quite recall it myself), there is a good case that they make life simpler for institiutions.

      I suppose the difficulty is that, even if you do go down this road and see real business benefits, you’ll still be regulated to death by government anyway.

  2. I read your post with interest, especially as I had just finished reading an article in University Manager by Michael Stevenson entitled, “A Fine Balance: challenges to university governance, accountability and autonomy. It raises almost identical issues to the article you reference in your post, although it tends to focus more on issues of funding.

    I don’t know if it’s the same in the UK, by here in North America, our governments fund universities partly because the universities act as their research arm. One of our local problems is that government seems to think they can fund research activities while reducing funding for operating. Research is sexy. Operating budgets are not. As you know, good research requires long-term planning and long-term funding. This has proven to be a difficult thing for governments to commit to. Our hope is that we can demonstrate to gov’t that they win when they commit to long-term funding for operations as well as for research.

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