Big thinkers unite to defend 'one of UK's greatest assets'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

New council aims to protect university values in the light of 'excessive and wasteful' reforms

Britain’s leading thinkers are launching a new campaigning body to protect the independence of universities as they face growing pressures from government attempts to move towards a more free market higher education system.

An array of academics and celebrated personalities have joined up to form the Council for the Defence of British Universities including Sir David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins, former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Lord Bragg and Alan Bennett.

They are anxious to protect the independence of research, arguing that academics should be free to work in fields regardless of whether they brings their institution economic benefits.

They also argue that the Government’s higher education reforms have ushered in “excessive inefficient and hugely wasteful “new accountability measures”, adding: “The very purpose of the university is grossly distorted by the attempt to create a market in higher education”.

In its mission statement, the new body, which will be officially launched on Tuesday argues that - while there are many different groups representing universities “no organisation exists to defend academic values and the institutional arrangements best suited to fostering them”.

It adds that the tuition fee and competition reforms to foster a freer market have been introduced “although opposed by student protests, devastated by academic criticism and unsupported by even the most elementary analysis of the empirical evidence”.

They argue that universities have become more dependent on student fee income and contributions from donors as a result of the new fees regime slashing government grants paid directly to universities.

They say they are fearful for the future of “one of the UK’s greatest assets - its universities”, adding that “a long series of heavy-handed reforms - driven by economic pressures and political objectives rather than the needs of universities and students - have traduced its (the university system’s) values”

The new council has 66 members - including eight members of the Order of Merit, 17 peers. Nobel prize winners, former vice-chancellors and former Cabinet ministers.  Historian Sir Keith Thomas and eminent scientist Lord Martin Rees - presidents of the British Association and Royal Society respectively have also signed up.

The launching of the new body coincides with a plea from former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy for ministers to “take seriously” the claims in a report which said there was an £1billion “black hole” in the budgeting for the higher education reforms. It argued it had over-estimated the income from repayments of student loans as well as under-estimated the level of loans students would need to cover the cost of their courses.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Imperial College London: Safety Training Administrator

£25,880 – £28,610 per annum: Imperial College London: Imperial College London ...

University College London: Client Platform Support Officer

£26,976 - £31,614 per annum: University College London: UCL Information Servic...

Guru Careers: Instructional Designer / e-Learning Designer

£30 - 32k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking an Instructional / e-Learning De...

Recruitment Genius: Schools Education & Careers Executive

£30500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Schools Education & Careers Executive ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss