Today’s news review looks at misleading coverage of a story on student fees and a story about alleged anti-Semitism in universities.
Yesterday, December 22, the BBC reported on regulations being laid in Parliament on 15 December setting the maximum fee cap that universities can charge students. The regulations relate to fees for 2017/18 and allow universities to raise fees in line with inflation, but only on the proviso that they meet a strict quality bar.
This decision was announced on 21 July by Jo Johnson via Written Ministerial Statement in the Commons and widely reported at the time by media including the BBC. The regulations, which were published in Parliament and online were the next stage in that process. They will now be subject to normal parliamentary scrutiny and could be debated.
The BBC report comments by Liberal Democrats and Labour spokespeople claiming the regulations have been ‘snuck out’ and will not be subject to scrutiny. This is incorrect and does not reflect the fact that this was announced in July and the regulations had been available since 15 December on a Parliamentary website, where all UK government legislation is published.
A DfE spokesperson said:
We are determined to make sure that everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education has the opportunity to do so.
Our reforms will drive up the standard of teaching at universities and other higher education providers and provide clear information to students about where the best courses can be found. Importantly, universities will not be able to increase their fees unless they have passed rigorous quality standards.
Today, 23 December, the Daily Telegraph reported on comments by Baroness Deech, a former higher education adjudicator.
She is reported as saying that Jewish students are avoiding some of Britain’s top universities because of anti-Semitism. In an interview with the paper, she singled out a number of leading universities, including Oxford and Manchester, and suggested institutions weren’t taking action for fear of offending potential benefactors from Gulf states. A number of universities are quoted challenging the claims.
Universities have a responsibility under the 2010 Equality Act to ensure that students and staff can live and work without discrimination, intimidation or harassment.
Universities UK (UUK) published a report on violence and harassment on campus in October 2016. Universities Minister Jo Johnson has asked UUK to survey progress in six months and report back to him to make sure universities are doing all they can to protect the safety and security of their students.
Universities Minister Jo Johnson said:
There is no place in our society for any form of harassment or discrimination. Universities have a clear responsibility under the 2010 Equality Act to ensure they protect their staff and students and act swiftly to investigate and address hate crime, including anti-Semitic related incidents reported to them.