No one saw the UK’s election upset coming. What now for higher education?
“Our European colleagues have told me they see this as a very good result. It will make it impossible for the government to force through a hard Brexit”
Following the UK’s shock election result, which saw the Conservatives fall short of a majority, Aldwyn Cooper, vice chancellor and chief executive of Regent’s University London, considers what the upset and a resulting alliance with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party could mean for the higher education sector.
No one in government saw this result coming. Only yesterday, one senior Conservative suggested that they were expecting to achieve a majority over Labour of over 100.
One of the reasons for the upset, and the most important thing about this General Election, is that young people were engaged, went out and voted.
This audience has despaired at the Conservatives’ attitude towards Brexit and the inclusion of international students in net migration figures. They also believe that universities are not offering improved value for money, particularly for black and minority ethnic communities.
Our European colleagues have told me they see this as a very good result. They believe a Conservative alliance with the DUP will make it impossible for the government to force through a hard Brexit.
The Conservative leadership is still very much in question. Their relationship with the DUP is extremely fragile and oddsmakers are already favouring Boris Johnson’s chances of becoming prime minister. This threatens a strong possibility of a world of ‘Boris and Trump.’
“The Conservative leadership is still very much in question. This threatens a strong possibility of a world of ‘Boris and Trump'”
Labour ran an effective campaign, which was ultimately based on incorrect data. While the idea of increasing taxation for the highest earners was popular, it would ultimately have led to the mass migration of British companies offshore.
Similarly, getting rid of student fees would cost the economy approximately £9-18 billion, depending on which figures you believe. It’s difficult to understand if this would have taken into account writing off Student Loans Company debt, causing a deficit of many billions of pounds.
There is now an opportunity for a new government to take students out of net migration figures and stop some universities from sponsoring international students they are ill equipped to support.
There are far too many universities. Some are destined to fail and the government will be unable to bail them out. Students care very little about universities investing millions of pounds in new buildings; what they really want is excellent teaching and learning.
Our message to both domestic and international students is that private universities are far less affected by changes in government than the wider UK higher education sector. We can move much more quickly and make rapid decisions in their best interests.