Andrew Adonis, a Labour peer and former Education Minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, has called for more than 30 former polytechnics to be stripped of their university status, due to his belief they are “lower-performing.”
A polytechnic is a term for tertiary education teaching institutions in the UK which offered higher diplomas and undergraduate degrees focusing in STEM subjects such as engineering. 25 years ago, in 1992, it was decided polytechnics could take the title of a university. According to Lord Adonis this decision was made “without any proper consideration or advice.”
Speaking to a House of Lords committee, Adonis said: “I think we’ve lost a very great deal of the edge and focus of vocational, particularly technical, higher education as a result of [giving polytechnics university status].
“I think there is a very good case for reversing that reform, in respect of the lower-performing former polytechnics and doing it in the context of a very significant reduction in the fees they are allowed to charge students.”
Lord Adonis proposes that by reforming the amount these “lower-performing’’ institutions can charge, students will be given “a much better deal.” His comments come ahead of a general review of higher education funding promised by the Prime Minister.
No stranger to conflict, Adonis has clashed with the top brass of the higher education sector before, namely over matters such as vice-chancellors’ pay and tuition fees. This latest proposal is unlikely to garner any more support from universities, not least from those institutions that stand to lose their status should his calls be answered.
Indeed, Lord Adonis has passed comment on more than just polytechnics.
Upon being prompted by a committee, he said of the Prime Minister’s recent tuition fee reform “It looks to me as if the whole system is a pack of cards waiting to collapse.” Each modification to the system, he argued, simply increases the costs of keeping everything afloat until eventually the entire thing is sure to collapse.
Among his many issues with the Higher Education system, the Peer of the Realm has repeatedly claimed that universities in the UK have colluded in setting tuition fees at the highest possible level.
Arguing against Adonis’ comments Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said it was ‘extremely logical’ for intuitions to charge the maximum that the government will allow them to. Adonis eventually backed down from his stance, admitting that he had no evidence to back up his accusations.