The relaunch of Study UK as ‘Independent Higher Education’, the UK’s representative body for independent providers of higher education, professional training and pathways, was announced publicly on Tuesday 12 July 2016, with a celebratory launch party in the evening, hosted by UCFB in Wembley Stadium. Our press release is here, and the photo gallery from the event is here (and you can check out the new dedicated Independent Higher Education website at http://www.independenthe.com). The relaunch also received coverage in The PIE News and in Study Travel Magazine, as well as in Study Travel Magazine’s weekly podcast. A student at Independent Higher Education member New College of the Humanities, sets the scene in a guest blog below.
“On a beautiful summer’s day in Wembley Stadium, members, sceptics and government and sector representatives gathered for the launch of Independent HE. Over canapés, champagne and conversation a new era, for formerly Study UK, was ushered in. However, this evening was different; in the room there was a tangible excitement. This was because the launch signified a new beginning that had implications reaching far beyond the walls of the beautiful box UCFB allowed us to use. A new frontier in higher education was emerging from the halls of Westminster, taking the form of the Higher Education and Research Bill 2016-17 and the White Paper ‘Success as a Knowledge Economy’.
The speeches made reflected this potential in the air. UCFB’s Chief Executive – and new Independent Higher Education Chair – Philip Wilson led the way with an honest and heartfelt case-study on how his organisation’s success has so far been extraordinary. But he also spoke about how progress is being held back by two key things. Firstly, a lack of degree awarding powers, and secondly, the fact that information about the incredible campus and specialist programmes UCFB offers is not included in the mainstream sources of information about higher education when pupils are deciding their future. These grievances were met with nods of agreement around the room. Independent HE’s Chief Executive Alex Proudfoot followed, delivering a powerful speech on how the new bill has the potential to improve the situation for independent higher education providers, and the positive impact it will have on their current and prospective students.
However, one of the main highlights was the appearance of voices so often lost in discussions about policy. The voices of those who are the reason Independent HE’s members have dedicated themselves to education: students. Amongst the crowd at the launch were students from various higher education providers; ICMP’s Student Presidents attended, alongside alumni from UCFB, current scholars at the New College of Humanities and even the Vice President (HE) of the National Union of Students. The addition of the student voice meant that policies that seem abstract and far removed to those not in the sector suddenly had grounding in reality. The consequences of the bill, and the importance of the work Independent HE does for its members, were at the forefront of discussion. It gave a chance for potential nay-sayers to hear directly the issues faced by providers who at present, despite their excellent teaching and employability record, cannot award their own degrees and who currently do not appear in mainstream government information when potential students are applying for their future destinations.
Students were also given an equal platform to share their experiences with the audience. Two students from member institutions gave testimonials, with one explaining how she had to “literally stumble across” her current place of study. Putting students at the centre of the launch was a striking illustration of what the new HE bill seeks to implement: putting students at the centre of education and decision making. A few common themes from the evening revealed three key messages: students should be given all the information about available higher education courses they need to unlock their full potential and the door to their dream jobs; students should be allowed to obtain a degree awarded by their own institution; expansion of the sector can encourage improvement across all higher education providers; both public and private. These are principles Independent HE has fought for on behalf of its members. One vital lesson learned at the launch, apart from that Wembley Stadium is an incredible feat of engineering and Independent HE know how to throw a party, was that we are entering a new and exciting era for higher education and Independent HE, along with its members and students, is helping to shape the way.”
- On 29th July 2016