Higher Education Could Be Endangered by Boris’ Government, Former Downing Street Adviser Warns

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A former policy adviser to Theresa May has warned that universities may be “challenged in extreme ways” as the new government may pull support from higher education to shift to further and technical education.

Will Tanner, now a newspaper columnist and director of the centre-right think tank Onward, said the political higher-ups are beginning to rethink how spending on the national education system could be reallocated stating that “every set of polling has shown that technical education is a vote winner”.

Speaking at a Universities UK conference on 17th July, Mr Tanner said

[If Boris Johnson] was to do one thing in education, I suspect it would be to redistribute or reorient education funding from universities to further education.

In focus groups, we hear time and time again parents who say they don’t want their children to go to university because it does not deliver value for money and young people who say their university education did not deliver the dream they were promised. That’s a profound change in the environment that the higher education system operates.

After two decades of growing public interest and support for investment in higher education, the sector faces some pretty heavy headwinds.

Mr Tanner suggested a turning of tables by pointing out that the Labour Party have focused on appealing to graduates while the Conservative Party are now the party for apprenticeships; which could likely sway voters in the next general election. He also noted that education levels were one of the most significant divides between Remain and Leave voters in the 2016 referendum, going on to propose that the Conservatives could win back Brexit votes in Labour heartlands.

Mr Tanner finally noted that there is the possibility of universities building strong links and partnerships with industry to develop high-quality apprenticeships and technical qualifications, saying that “There is every opportunity for universities to become those bedrock institutions of local place and community, playing heavily into the politics of belonging”.

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