Photo © Lefteris Heretakis

Looking to the past, to rebuild for the future. The challenges and opportunities in Higher Education through policy reforms since 1942 in the United Kingdom with some relevant Art and Design examples.


For many years now as a practicing designer and lecturer I have become increasingly aware of a phenomenon that has plagued both the professional world of Art and Design, as well as its education. Art and design students have become more and more reluctant to draw, to make the connection between training their hand to collaborate harmoniously with their imagination, and the development of their perception. As a student in the mid 1990’s I was privileged to experience the last few years of the fee free system of British education. I remember the time that my course had to adopt the American style modular system and the flexibility of teaching Art and Design in a more holistic way was scrapped for the fragmented system of modules and credits.

When I became a lecturer in 2009, I experienced to my dismay that the system in which I had been educated and trained merely two decades ago had long ceased to exist. From 1942 and until the late 1990’s education was free, class sizes were reasonable, National Student Survey (NSS) and the Teaching and Research Excellence Framework (TEF and REF) did not exist as they were gradually introduced from 1997 onwards. Lecturers were in a better position to dedicate themselves to teaching and learning for the benefit of their students, and not for the satisfaction of the student/customers and market forces as the progressive reports and policies that I will analyse in this paper will demonstrate.

In 2003, academic staff also reported a dramatic increase in their own administrative work-loads, with one lecturer stating, ‘I felt like I was drowning’.[1] Lecturers today are having to constantly balance between the job that they were already hired to do, and a wide range of other extra responsibilities. These vary from involvement in student recruitment and retention, to being constantly evaluated by the numbers of the newly imposed NSS, and having to come up with measures to accommodate them. These are only a few of the extracurricular responsibilities that have been added to the workload.

Lecturers and practitioners of art and design have become aware that the current structures in the world of the University of today are fundamentally antithetical to the way that a true Art School needs to function[2], and has functioned for a considerable amount of time. According to Findeli (2001) design was considered at the Bauhaus [1919] school in Weimar, Germany as a skill taught through drawing, to selected students that were chosen to have the abilities to live up to the multitude of challenges presented to them during their studies. This is not the case today, where the entry criteria are far looser and students are chosen not according to their artistic talent but more according to the unfounded belief that somehow they will magically improve during the course of their studies. Decades of experience of artistic education and training have been discarded for new methods that are of little effectiveness.

Massification of Higher Education

The Dearing report laid the foundations for the massification of Higher Education in the UK, as in the practice of making available a premium product to the mass market, has resulted in a significant drop of the quality of graduates in the field of Art and Design. Twenty years ago, a foundation degree in Art and Design was a mandatory requirement in order to advance to the first year of the degree. Today students can enter directly into University without having gone through this essential training. At the same time, a number of design schools in England and around the world, believe that they can train artists and designers without prior knowledge of drawing skills[3]. This is the equivalent of attempting to train a musician who is tone deaf. This is next to impossible, as the result will be a musician that plays music that would be very uncomfortable to hear due to its tonal inaccuracy. The commercialization of higher education has resulted in a new paradigm of student as consumer, with the ‘client’ now seeking value for money, not necessarily in terms of a quality education, but in terms of the best grades for minimum effort[4]. Privatised education in combination with the gradual removal of the cap in the available student places has resulted in lower quality graduates.

Having taught in a wide range of higher education institutions around the world, I can say that this is global problem. However this paper will be focusing predominantly in the UK as it has one of the longest tradition of teaching and learning in the Arts, that officially began with the Royal Academy of arts, founded in 1768[5]. It is this tradition that was transmitted to a large number of countries, presently repackaged as “learning from doing”. This practice existed previously within the artist’s guilds and it is one of the most ancient ways of learning. It seems that the tendency in education today is “learning from thinking and not dot doing”.

During the last three decades, two factors have changed dramatically in the UK system of art and design education. Firstly, since the 1970s, degrees have replaced diplomas as a seemingly more respected qualification[6]. The old traditional Art colleges and schools have entered the University arena and are now being judged by the same criteria as S.T.E.M.[7] subjects are.

The second element is government policy on Education. The Cambridge dictionary defines policy as a set of ​ideas or a ​plan of what to do in ​particular ​situations that has been ​agreed to ​officially by a ​group of ​people, a ​business ​organization, a ​government, or a ​political ​party. Consequently, policy looks like the perfect place to begin my enquiry.

The first grammar school was established in the United Kingdom in Canterbury in 598 AD and there is evidence of teaching at Oxford University as early as 1096 AD[8]. However, I have decided for this paper to focus on four key stages in policy making that have shaped the recent system of education we have now:

1. The social insurance and allied services 1942 report by Sir William Beveridge,

2. The 1963 report by Lionel Robbins,

3. The 1997 Dearing report,

4. The 2011 white paper together with the 2015 Green paper as they have very similar agendas.

I will be looking for the values, philosophy and intentions of the reports in regards to higher education and how they have affected teaching and learning.

The social insurance and allied services 1942 report by Sir William Beveridge,

‘Freedom must be won by democracy. The plan for social security in this report is submitted by one who believes that in this supreme crisis the British people will not be found wanting, of courage and faith and national unity, of material and spiritual power to play their part in achieving both social security and the victory of justice among nations upon which security depends.’

William Beveridge[9]

Education and its problems cannot exist in isolation. What this report attempts to do is a holistic solution to the major problems that existed at the time. According to Benassi (2010) what was proposed in the report was made possible by the intellectual climate of the time as for some decades, new ideas had been emerging about collective responsibility for individual welfare. Cottam (2008) suggests that the report was guided by three principles. Firstly, a strong determination to be radical. Secondly an attack on the five giants of ‘want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness, the five major issues of society at the time as a direct result of the war:

1. Want: There was great poverty and need in the UK.

2. Ignorance: In terms of lack of education.

3. Disease: Lack of National Heath care service.

4. Squalor: poor housing, slump living.

5. Idleness: In terms of unemployment.

The third principle is creating an active collaboration between the citizen and state. Public services, Education and health, would be free for the most part and funded by general taxation.

Social care, according to Cottham (2008) and the report, would be rationed according to need. The report states that access to services would be determined by strict eligibility criteria and assessments by experts. Financial benefits would be paid according to contributions made by individuals through the National Insurance scheme. Responsibility for providing services was carefully shared between central and local government.

The result of this report was the Welfare Settlement manifesto which transformed society tremendously[10]. In the decades that followed education, health outcomes, life expectancy, social mobility, employment opportunities, and prosperity improved tremendously as a direct consequence of the actions taken by the report. On an international level, institutions such as the National Health Service have long been admired, and many countries have since adopted this definition of the relationship between the state and the individual. One of the crucial things that was secured through Beveridge was the widening of access via free state education from the age of fourteen[11].

Sixty years later Cottam (2008) expressed the concern that the new education, health and social services were encouraging citizens to become passive consumers instead of active participants and attempted to rewrite the report for today’s challenges. The privileges that Beveridge offered where given as stated in the report upon merit. One had to work for them, they were not without conditions but came with responsibilities. In recent times the collaboration values of the report have been ignored, together with the spirit of cooperation and reciprocity that was so prominent during the time the report was written. Beveridge and the values his team stood for, laid the foundations for the British counterculture of the 1960’s and the Robbins report that followed

The 1963 Robbins report

Lionel Robbins a famous economist revolutionised British politics with the idea that anyone with the ability and the desire to go to University should be able to do so. He was an outstanding individual. Besides being in the government committee on Higher education, he directed the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, a department at the London School of Economics, lectured, researched and wrote books.

My own I was unacquainted before. My only wish is that there were, so to speak, ten days in the week. Then everything would be lovely life at the moment is more like that of an animal in a treadmill than ever before. The intrinsic interest of this enquiry is great. It seems to raise at least half the problems of social life on this planet, and I am learning a lot about matters with which [12].

Lionel Robbins

According to Howson (2011) in the Committee on Higher Education Lionel Robbins investigated the issue of the proposed expansion in higher education. This was achieved by asking for an investigation of the potential demand for higher education from suitably qualified school-leavers and of the supply of educational opportunities for them.

John Carlswell (1985) who wrote one of the strongest critiques of the report writes that the Robbins report is one of the great state papers of this [20th] century, and possibly the last of its line. By today’s neoliberal standards, it reads like the Marx/Engels Communist manifesto.

One of the guiding principles that forms what is called the basis of the report, which became known as the Robbins principle, is that “Courses of higher education should be available for all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so.” A good society desires equality of opportunity for its citizens to become not merely good producers but also good men and women[13]. A good honours degree from one university needs to be valued as equivalent to a degree from another institution.

Further on the report states that “All University institutions […] should be self-governing and financed by grants distributed through an independent committee. This reads just like the definition[14] of the University by the German philosopher Carl Jaspers. It seems to me that Robbins was well aware of the dangers to preserving academic freedom and intended to safeguard it to the best of his ability at the time.

The most revealing section of the report is article 16: System of finance: The report raises many issues about fees and student loans and the distribution of the rapidly rising cost of higher education between state, local authorities and recipients: this is important to the academic freedom problem as well as financially and socially; and has considerable importance for the discussion on the burden of rates.[…]

Here Robbins highlights the importance of free education and grants and their relationship to academic freedom. This is one of my long held views and it is very fitting to see it in an official UK government paper of 1963. Article 19 goes on to recommend the doubling of public spending establishing a 10-year programme to 3.5 billion pounds for the decade 1964–1974. Robbins talks about the ultimate commitment of the large long-term allocation of natural resources. It is worth mentioning[CFSH1] that even then, there was a conversation in the form of an initial consultation regarding fees in Higher education[15]. The discussion about implementation of fees states that they might be acting as adisincentive for the young but the report recommends that the climate might be ripe in ten tears time ie. around 1973. It is evident that the gradual privatisation of education has been a long time in preparation

Conclusions of the 1963 Robbins report.

Higher Education arrangements here are in urgent need of revision and although I feel as though some catastrophe had befallen me — as though a piece of cliff had detached itself and crushed one of my limbs — I cannot say that if I were asked to go back to the day I was asked to do it I would give any answer other than the one I gave.

[…] While emphasising that there is no betrayal of values when institutions of higher education teach what will be of some practical use, we must postulate that what is taught should be taught in such a way as to promote the general powers of the mind. The aim should be to produce not mere specialists but rather cultivated men and women. It is this that the world of affairs demands of the world of learning. It is this, and not conformity with traditional categories, that furnishes the criterion of what institutions of higher education may properly teach. […]

Robbins was concerned with the creation of cultivated men and women that do not conform to traditional categories within Higher education. In order to fund the expansion of Higher Education he contemplated the idea of loans repayable as a percentage of future earnings. He decided not to go down this route as according to Willets (2013) he was afraid that positive attitudes to higher education were not yet sufficiently widespread. After over forty years of education policy and development, we have adopted a financing model that is virtually identical to the one Robbins recommended. However, today, it is the values that drive the policies that are flawed. Neither Beveridge nor Robbins envisioned an education system that is for profit, tailor made to serve the market forces, as we are about to see in the policies that follow.

The Dearing 1997 report

The Dearing report is certainly a monster! Fourteen separate reports, five appendices costing £135 and available in print, cd-rom, and online editions. It far exceeds the Robbins report of thirty-four years ago which came in seven volumes for the report itself, one annex and five appendices [although the summary on education is merely three pages long]. But is it also a mouse?

Scott (1998)

The report introduces the term widening participation with the excuse that Britain needs to remain competitive as an increased number of students goes through University. This is a highly philosophical position and one that I will be looking in greater depth further in this paper.

Two of the most significant characteristics of the Dearing report for lecturers in higher education are the proposals for accreditation of teachers, and for an independent pay review committee. Here we find the term CPD or continuing professional development, as if lecturers have not been doing that, sometimes to the extreme. CPD sets the stage for the rhetoric of “Excellence” in teaching to be introduced in the hearts and minds of educators and policy makers at a national level.

The committee of the report, proposed a new Institute for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, and recommended that all new entrants to higher education teaching, successful completion of probation should require achievement of a basic (associate) level of membership of the Institute. The institute for learning (IFL) was shut down by the conservative government on the 31st of October 2014 according to the website of the Society for education and training. It has been partially replaced by the Higher Education Academy. The report was also supportive of the increased use of short-term and part-time staff, not recognising the difficulty this creates in the overall teaching and learning structure of the institution.

On financial issues the report quotes the forecast by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) according to which, by 1999/2000, seventy-eight institutions in England (55% of the total) would be in financial deficit. The only way Dearing seems to think that this problem can be remedied is by proposing severe redundancies to meet the financial cuts of 6.5% required over the next 2 years, some of which are already in progress.

According to Bennett (1997) the Dearing proposals on the student contribution to higher education, and on student financial support, were the subject of considerable prior speculation. The Government seemed to be ahead of Dearing by producing proposals of their own a week before publication of the Report. While accepting the principle of student contribution to higher education funding, education secretary David Blunkett sought to mitigate the effects of its application by replacing the flat £1000 fee proposed by Dearing with a means tested fee. He also substituted Dearing’s funding options of a mix of grants and loans with a loan that had options for the most the disadvantaged students. Dearing is in agreement with the government at the time that students have to contribute a greater amount towards the financial costs of their education. This has been the policy of both Labour and Conservative parties. The research of the Sutton trust[16] on social mobility suggests that income and educational attainment are related. By reducing the available income of students by increasing tuition fees we are potentially disadvantaging the students from poorer backgrounds.

Lionel Robbins became famous for the Robbins principle: “courses of Higher Education should be available to all who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so”. In the Dearing report the first arguments towards the privatisation and marketization of education are laid out. These values will be further intensified in the white and green paper.

The Green Paper on Education also known as “Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice” and its later incarnation as “The Teaching Excellence Framework: Assessing quality in Higher Education Third Report of Session 2015–16”

[…] The government’s higher education reforms, as laid out in the Green Paper, represent a fundamental attack against the idea of education as a public service and against the interests of students and education workers. They will mean a market with increased and variable fees; staff and institutions forced to compete in metrics based on the government’s right-wing understanding of education; and public universities pushed to collapse while private businesses are given help to take their place. […]

From the 2016 open letter against HE reforms.

The Green paper on Education has been characterised by Holmwood (2015) as the further marketization of higher education in the United Kingdom, following on the footsteps of the previous 2011 White paper with the misleading title “Students at the Heart of the System” while reading a lot more like “Market forces at the Heart of the System. In the paper students are identified as consumers equipped with the purchasing power of their tuition fee income[17]. The entire government discourse on education needs to change urgently.

The theme that characterises the White Paper is that the quality of the academic experience is compromised by a lack of competition. Since when was competition related to excellence? Competition must be taking place before entry into Higher Education to receive higher quality students into Higher Education in the first place. The solution proposed by the paper is to replace the ‘burdens of bureaucracy’ and student number quotas ‘determined in Whitehall’ with the ‘forces of competition’[18]. In this way ‘excellent teaching will be placed back at the heart of every student’s university experience’.

According to Dr. Des Freedman[19], speaking at the Convention for Higher Education at the University of Brighton in 2013, in the 2016 white paper on higher education the word competition is mentioned 16 times on, innovation is mentioned 14 times while there is not a single mention in its 100 pages on thought, ideas, reflection or discovery.

According to the UK governments own website[20] the 2015 green paper aims to: Drive up teaching standards and give students more information through a new Teaching Excellence Framework that will encourage a greater focus on high quality teaching and graduate employment prospects. The teaching excellence framework will form the way government monitors and assesses the quality of teaching in England’s universities. It has proposed[21] TEF will aim to:

Ensure all students receive an excellent teaching experience that encourages original thinking, drives up engagement and prepares them for the world of work. Build a culture where teaching has equal status with research, with great teachers enjoying the same professional recognition and opportunities for career and pay progression as great researchers. Provide students with the information they need to judge teaching quality. Recognise institutions that do the most to welcome students from a range of backgrounds and support their retention and progression and include a clear set of outcome-focused criteria and metrics.

At the centre of the Green Paper are the new plans for the evaluation of teaching in higher education via a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) together with plans to increase the participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds by making access agreements threshold requirements in the TEF. It is precisely this teaching excellence framework that is under severe criticism by the wider academic community.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett FRS, Vice‐Chancellor of The University of Sheffield and Dr. Josh Forstenzer, have written[22] extensively on why the TEF is deeply and fundamentally flawed. British higher education has a tradition for implementing quality control mechanisms for teaching. There have been various forms of quality control ranging from internal feedback mechanisms and external examiners systems to the creation of the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) in 1997, our sector has demonstrated concern with ensuring the quality of our teaching.

The Green paper is a dangerous set of proposals, not because of what it wants to achieve, the aspirations of Jo Johnson[23] seem to be in the right place, it is the approach that is flawed and impractical. According to Sir Burnett almost 50% of the population is going through university and that is putting an extreme pressure on the economy. The idea that the marketization of the University will deliver social mobility is absolutely absurd, as it does not provide an equal starting point for all to compete. The present reality and the future tendency is to categorise so called quality with variable tuition fees. Academics would like the time to really get to know their students, it has nothing to do with organisation or teaching excellence framework, it is up to the government to give the time, the opportunity and the respect to the academic profession.

At the same time the amount for money available for Arts and Humanities research decreasing. In British society there is too much of a distinction between that which is artistic and that which is intellectual and this is something that must be addressed. According to Sir Burnett most Universities in 2016 are working with 2007 research budgets, and in most cases 2007 salaries. This speaks volumes in the way that government is valuing Universities, academics and academic research. How can we have excellence if the level of our income is at its lowest? We need policy decisions that respect teaching and learning, not gimmicky catchphrases.

We can no longer afford to distinguish between STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) and Art and Design subjects especially when according to the Design council[24], design contributes over 72 billion pounds to the UK economy. This contribution is a significant one, consequently Design education must be strengthened and not weakened as it contributes a significant amount of money to the national economy and can help raise standards across the board.

According to Forstenzer (2015) it is proposed in the Green Paper that the Teaching Excellence Framework would go beyond ensuring that teaching should meet a minimum standard in order to actively encourage excellence in teaching across the board. It is the variability in the quality of teaching provision that the TEF aims to address by introducing a standardised mechanism to encourage all institutions to pursue ‘excellence’ in teaching. However, standardisation did not lead to the creation of a measure of quality that would allow for comparison, competition, and ultimately market‐driven improvement when the Bologna process was introduced.

The paper is also unclear about the role of the National Student Survey (NSS), that transforms the space of the University into a pleasure dome[CFSH2] [25]by linking Teaching Excellence with student satisfaction, thus permitting the judgment of what we teach and the evaluation of the methods we teach with, by those that are misinformed of our aims and objectives. It is unfortunate that maximizing pleasure has become a key theme of student life. Universities are now marketed to students as locations of pleasure, with less attention given to the benefits of academic study[26].

I have had students write to me many years after their graduation, telling me that they understood much later what I was teaching them at the time. This is true for a significant amount of the material that I use. It seems that the students are not fully capable of assessing the methods of the lecturers. In addition according to Poulos (2008) there is very little research on students perception on feedback to lecturers[27].

This epiphany cannot be objectively quantified by the NSS as those students will already have written their incomplete opinion of our courses and the way we chose to disseminate our knowledge. The Green Paper suggests that NSS may be used with the Office for National Statistics given the responsibility for developing more satisfactory metrics. In “Enhancing and Developing the National Student Survey” 2010 report by HEFCE summary point no. 7 states that: “The design of the NSS means that there are limitations on its use for comparative purposes (recommendation 5[28]). In particular, its validity in comparing results from different subject areas is very restricted, as is its use in drawing conclusions about different aspects of the student experience. One issue to be borne in mind is that, in most cases, the differences between whole institutions are so small as to be statistically and practically insignificant.” This proves to me that the government have no idea how they will utilise the NSS data.

At the same time, there are institutions like the Russell group[29] using NSS data to establish their virtual success. Russel group claim that 89% of their university students are satisfied with the teaching on their course, compared to a sector-wide average of 87%. It is obvious to me that these individuals are ignorant of the margin of error in statistical analysis. According to Pamela Hunter[30], director of the Centre for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut, the margin of error can range from ± 2% to ±14% depending on the sample size. In order to reach +/-5.5% with 95% confidence takes almost 40% of the population for a population of 500, but less than 0.04% of a population of a million. Margin of error is a complex issue however claiming a 2% advantage is a highly unstable and marginal difference[31].

Recently there is discourse for scrapping NSS altogether. The boycott is supported by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts that is a collaboration between students and Higher Education workers. More than 200 student representatives have signed an open letter[32] written by the National Union of Students in support of the boycott, which has been debated at the NUS national conference in April 2016. According to Amin[33] (2016) there is a real problem with the metrics of the NSS the way they measure student engagement as student problems are complex and they are not being dealt as such.

The criticism of this paper in the profession is deep and far reaching. There is a consensus that this paper signals the most significant changes to higher education since the Dearing report and educators are very concerned about the relationship of the Teaching Excellence Framework to students fees and the changes that this move can bring to Higher Education.


Swimming must be taught in the swimming pool not the classroom.

People are to be loved, data is to be used. The reason education is in such chaos is because data is being loved and people are being used. When the state creates frameworks for education with marketization values in mind, education suffers. As Beveridge (1945) writes, the state is or can be master of money, but in a free society it is master of very little else. In a free society, the state can only be the servant of the people it has been appointed to serve. Through the five reports from 1942 to 2015, we have witnessed academic freedom of thought word and deed becoming more and more prescriptive through a discourse that while superficially harmless, reveals the true values of its policy makers as soon as we lightly scratch that surface. We are placing more and more barriers between education teaching and learning in the guise of various frameworks and faulty policies, when barriers, obstacles and fetters is the very thing education has been created to remove.


The undergraduate population had risen from 78,000 in 1949/50 to 90,000 in 1960/1 (compared with 47,000 before the Second World War). But the 1949/50 figure reflected the influx of ex-soldiers along with eighteen and nineteen year olds (so that the total fell in the mid- 1950s) and the 1960/1 figure represented only 4 per cent of the usual age group, a very low proportion although it was an improvement on less than 2 per cent in 1938 (Stewart 1989, 48). Including those in teacher training colleges and other further education institutions, the number of students in fulltime higher education was only 8 per cent of their age group (Committee on Higher Education 1963, 16). Most of this expansion occurred in the twenty-one existing universities and university colleges.

The terms of reference for the University Grants Committee (UGC) had, however, included the possibility of new universities since 1946, after the Barlow Report on Scientific Manpower recommended an expansion of student places to at least 90,000 by 1955. The extension plans were all there by 1960 but not the bricks and mortar, the staff, or the places for the larger numbers coming from the sixth forms’, numbers increased by the post-war bulge in the birth rate and the consequences of the Butler Education Act of 1944 which brought in free secondary education. Furthermore, because the universities were funded, via the UGC, by the Treasury while schools and colleges came under the Ministry of Education, ‘It was nobody’s job to try and co-ordinate policy for higher education as a whole.’ Hence the need for a committee to review higher education in Britain, and for a small committee rather than a cumbersome Royal Commission so that it could report quickly.

Definition of the University by Jaspers (1959): The university is a community of scholars and students engaged in the task of seeking truth. It is a body which administers its own affairs regardless of whether it derives its means from endowments, ancient property rights or the state, or whether its original public sanction comes from papal bulls, imperial charters or the acts of provinces or states. In every case its independent existence reflects the express wish or continuing toleration on the part of the founder. Like the church it derives its autonomy respected even by the state from an imperishable idea of supranational, world-wide character: academic freedom. This is what the university demands and what it is granted. Academic freedom is a privilege which entails the obligation to teach truth, in defiance of anyone outside or inside the university who wishes to curtail it.

There is a very interesting poster that helped raise the funding for the University of Sheffield in 1904. The poster talks about supporting and why one must support the university of Sheffield. What makes it relevant is the values it expresses:

1.The University will be for the people [Rising and proposed variable fee structure is making UK Universities to be less and less for the financially disadvantaged people]. 2.The University will bring the highest education within reach of the child of the working man [As above]. 3.The University will help the local industries [not many of those left in the area[34] although there are efforts for growth in other areas]. 4.The University will be the centre for the treatment of accidents and diseases. [The only point that is experiencing real growth] 5. Sheffield is the only large city in England without a University. Sheffield cannot afford to remain in this position. 6. The University will not only benefit this district; it will assist the nation in its trade competition with other nations.

Out of the six points only points four to six still stand. The 2011 white paper and the 2015 Green paper are clearly moving in the opposite direction of these values and this is causing an unprecedented amount of damage in higher education. The measure of a society is not only what it does but also the quality of its aspirations. For education, the values of the 1904 Sheffield manifesto are truly student centred. They are truly placing the aspiring student at the heart of teaching and learning whilst ensuring widening participation in a real way.



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[1] Feast*, V. and Bretag, T., 2005. Responding to crises in education: New challenges for higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 24(1), p.68.

[2] Findeli, A., 2001. Rethinking design education for the 21st century: Theoretical, methodological, and ethical discussion. Design issues, 17(1), pp.5–17.

[3] “Drawing skills are helpful but not required.” Parsons School of Design, one of the most famous schools in the world. date accessed 22/04/2016

[4] Ehrenberg, R.G., 2006. The perfect storm and the privatization of public higher education. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 38(1), pp.467.


[6] Grubb, W.N., 1992. The economic returns to baccalaureate degrees: New evidence from the class of 1972. The Review of Higher Education, 15(2), p.213.

[7] science, technology, engineering and mathematics

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[12] Howson S., (2011) Lionel Robbins, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pg. 875

[13] Carswell, J. (1985) Government and Universities in Britain: Programme and Performance 1960–1980, Cambridge: CUP

[14] The university is a community of scholars and students engaged in the task of seeking truth. It is a body which administers its own affairs regardless of whether it derives its means from endowments, ancient property rights or the state, or whether its original public sanction comes from papal bulls, imperial charters or the acts of provinces or states. In every case its independent existence reflects the express wish or continuing toleration on the part of the founder. Like the church it derives its autonomy respected even by the state from an imperishable idea of supranational, world-wide character: academic freedom. This is what the university demands and what it is granted. Academic freedom is a privilege which entails the obligation to teach truth, in defiance of anyone outside or inside the university who wishes to curtail it. Jaspers (1959)

[15] Discussion on the Robbins report on fees: According to the minutes for 1–2 June 1963 (HE(63) Minutes 98–9), ‘Loans to students would at present act as a disincentive for young people entering higher education, but the climate of opinion might make such a concept acceptable in about ten years’ time. Accordingly, the report noted (para 647): We find opposing arguments very evenly balanced, and there were differences of view amongst us on their relative importance. But we were able to reach a conclusion as to policy in present circumstances. At a time when many parents are only just beginning to acquire the habit of contemplating higher education for such of their children, especially girls, as are capable of benefiting by it, we think it probable that it would have undesirable disincentive effects. But if, as time goes on, the habit is more firmly established, the arguments of justice in distribution and of the advantage of increasing individual responsibility may come to weigh more heavily and lead to some experiment in this direction.

[16] Intergenerational Mobility in Europe and North America A Report Supported by the Sutton Trust Jo Blanden, Paul Gregg and Stephen Machin 1 April 2005 Embargo, April 2005. Page 13

[17] HE White Paper plans place the market, not students, at the heart of the UK HE date acessed 4/06/2016

[18] “Higher Education: Students at the Heart of the System” — an Analysis of the Higher Education White Paper, John Thompson and Bahram Bekhradnia

[19]Des Freedman: ‘What is a University for?’

[20] Student choice at the heart of new higher education reforms: date accessed 5/4/2016

[21] Inspire to succeed: the role of the HEA, Professor Stephanie Marshall Chief Executive, Higher Education Academy, HEA, 2015.

[22] Why the teaching excellence framework is flawed, Guardian 23/02/2016 accessed 30/02/2016 and Forstenzer, D., The teaching excellence framework. What’s the purpose, University of Sheffield

[23] Speech: Higher education: fulfilling our potential date accessed 5/3/2016


[25] Holdsworth C. ‘Going away to uni’: mobility, modernity, and independence of English higher education students. Environment and Planning A. 2009 Aug 1;41(8):1849–64.

[26] Quinn J, 2006, ``Welcome to the pleasure dome: women taking pleasure in the university’’, in Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education Eds P Cotterill, G Letherby, S Jackson (Kluwer Academic, Boston, MA)

[27] Poulos, A. and Mahony, M.J., 2008. Effectiveness of feedback: The students’ perspective. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(2), pp.143–154.

[28] recommendation 5: As far as QA is concerned, we wish to encourage the QAA to make use of the NSS results in supporting the judgements arrived at through institutional audits (recommendation 3). Institutions should highlight actions taken on the basis of NSS findings in their QA self-evaluation documents.

[29]Commenting on the publication of the Government’s Green Paper Fulfilling Our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice, Dr. Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said: date accessed 2/2/2016


date accessed 2/3/2016

[31] date accessed 2/3/2016

[32] Sabotage the NSS & DLHE to Stop the HE Reforms! We support the call for a sabotage of the 2017 National Student Survey (NSS) and the subsequent Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, as part of a strategy to stop the higher education reforms. We will be voting for amendment 201b at NUS National Conference 2016 and we encourage other delegates to do the same. The government’s higher education reforms, as laid out in the Green Paper, represent a fundamental attack against the idea of education as a public service and against the interests of students and education workers. They will mean a market with increased and variable fees; staff and institutions forced to compete in metrics based on the government’s right-wing understanding of education; and public universities pushed to collapse while private businesses are given help to take their place. To force the government to back down, we need leverage. The flagship Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) will be a damaging, core part of the reforms. The TEF will force teachers and universities to compete for the chance to increase fees on the basis of the jobs their graduates get something unrelated to good teaching, and out of teachers’ control and other inadequate metrics. And the TEF will in future rely on data from the NSS and DLHE. Even before this, the NSS and DLHE already form important parts of the government’s management and marketization of education. Sabotaging these surveys will help to make introducing the TEF unworkable. Doing that would help to disrupt the implementation of the reforms as a whole. We are voting for amendment 201b because NUS should call mass action against the NSS and DLHE: organising students to either boycott them or give artificial maximum or minimum scores, until the reforms are cancelled. This would be a powerful tool — a key part of a serious strategy to defeat the HE reforms. It is a strategy which requires mass participation, that’s why we need the full weight of the NUS behind us. We believe we can win. date accessed19/4/2016

[33] Rima Amin, Registry officer at Birkbeck, University of London date accessed 19/4/2016

[34] at the time of writing this paper 1200 jobs were lost from the already troubled steel industry of Sheffield as the price of steel went from $1200 (2008) per tonne to $200 (2016). Source: