On 5th April, a vote took place on a Regret Motion tabled by Labour’s Lord Stevenson of Balmacara to two Regulations changing student loan terms and amounts. The Bishop of Peterborough took part.
On the 23rd January 2017, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt. Revd. Paul Butler, spoke to an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill, which would protect the Archbishop of Canterbury’s historic right to confer degrees. The amendment was tabled by the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt. Revd. Christopher Foster, who was unable to attend the debate. Viscount Younger of Leckie responded on behalf of the Government:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, my friend the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth is unable to be in his place this evening, but in his place I bring before your Lordships Amendment 268A. I endorse all the general comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Murphy of Torfaen, about the Cathedrals Group of universities. While I am not armed with the expertise, his amendments appear to make sense for the particular purpose.
I am sure that almost all noble Lords in the Committee are aware that the Archbishop of Canterbury has possessed the power to confer degrees since the Ecclesiastical Licences Act 1533. Certainly the landscape of higher education has changed in the almost 500 years since then, when the only other English degree-awarding institutions were Oxford and Cambridge. The Higher Education and Research Bill that we are rightly considering so carefully is very welcome in recognising that changing landscape and legislating to ensure that the sector continues to evolve as successfully as it has done so far.
On 11th January 2017 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Higher Education and Research Bill in Committee. The Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Revd David Urquhart, introduced an amendment in the name of the Bishop of Portsmouth, on the need “to have a variety of institution types with distinctive characteristics.” The amendment was withdrawn after the debate, following assurances from the Minister that the issue would be looked at afresh. Below is his speech in full, and a section of the Minister’s reply:
The Lord the Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I regret that my friend the Bishop of Portsmouth is not in his place tonight, having been exhausted, I suppose, by leading the debate on the Armed Forces covenant on Monday. He has asked me to bring before your Lordships Amendment 58 which relates to the general duties of the Office for Students. This is in the context of warmly welcoming the Bill’s commitment to greater diversity and improved choices for students, both in the wider choice of the number of institutions and in course and subject. However, we believe it is vital also to have a variety of institution types with distinctive characteristics.
On 13th and 14th December 2016 the Bishop of Winchester, Rt Rev’d Tim Dakin, received responses from the Department for Education and Treasury to three written questions about overseas student numbers and their effect on the economy:
The Lord Bishop of Winchester To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the number of overseas students, excluding EU students, coming to study in the UK over the next five years.
On 6th December 2016, the Government’s Higher Education and Research Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Winchester and lead Church of England bishop for HE, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, spoke during the debate on the Bill.
The Lord Bishop of Winchester My Lords, I declare my interests as a visitor to five Oxford colleges and the governor of Winchester University. I thank both the Minister for Universities and Science and the noble Viscount, Lord Younger, for meeting me to discuss some of the core issues concerning the Bill. I say, too, that I look forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg.
The positive aim of this Bill is clear: to enhance our world-class higher education system. In particular, I welcome the potential of proposed changes: putting students at the heart of the system through the Office for Students; emphasising the importance of good teaching; encouraging new providers and innovation; and a more interdisciplinary approach to research. It is also encouraging to hear that the Government are listening to concerns and are willing to amend the regulatory framework to take account of points raised.
On 17th November 2016 the House of Lords debated a motion from Conservative Peer Lord Lucas, “that this House takes note of the application of immigration policy to overseas students at United Kingdom universities and colleges.” The Bishop of Winchester, Rt Revd Tim Dakin, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for securing the time to have this important debate. I begin by declaring several interests: as a governor of Winchester University and as visitor to the Oxford colleges of New College, Magdalene, Corpus Christi, Trinity and St John’s.
Universities have always been centres of wisdom and learning: places filled with global-minded people, where political, cultural and geographical boundaries are transcended for the common good. The value of studying abroad is unquestionable. How would scholarship look today if St Augustine had been unable to complete his studies due to visa complications? Would we have heard of Thomas Aquinas if he had been turned back at the French border? Finally, would,
“the world is everything that is the case”,
still be the case if Ludwig Wittgenstein had been asked to produce a study permit on arriving in Britain?
On 3rd November 2016 the House of Lords debated a motion from Labour Peer Lord Soley “that this House takes note of the potential impact of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union on funding for universities and scientific research.” The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the range of risks faced by the HE sector covers student recruitment, staff recruitment, research funding and course portfolios, as we have already heard. The potential impact—positive from some perspectives, albeit limited and very provisional at this stage, and the range of likely negative impacts—varies between universities.
My background covers different sorts of universities: Hertfordshire and Portsmouth, Oxford and Cambridge, and Durham and Manchester. I studied in three, taught economics in two, was a chaplain in another and have been a governor in two. I draw your Lordships’ attention to my entries in the register of interests.
In such very varied universities, the present excruciating uncertainty following the Brexit vote is having a significant impact in a range of areas.