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Westminster launch for alternative white paper for higher education

13 June 2016 | last updated: 15 June 2016

Campaigners will launch an alternative higher education white paper this evening in Westminster.

Presenting the case for an education system that delivers research addressing social and scientific challenges, defends academic freedoms and seeks to provide an education to the next generation that is not simply a narrow focus on the acquisition of qualifications, the publication argues that critical skills are necessary to meet the challenge of business and for inclusive democratic engagement.

Speakers at the event in the Boothroyd Room in Portcullis House hosted by shadow chancellor John McDonnell, include UCU vice-president Joanna de Groot, Green party MP Caroline Lucas and the paper's editor Professor John Holmwood from the University of Nottingham.

The alternative white paper is particularly critical of the government's obsession with bringing untried for-profit education providers into the UK university system, and failing to defend the values of public higher education.

It warns that instead of following the example of America we should be learning lessons from its mistakes. UCU has been a leading critic of the US system that the government has sought to emulate, highlighting how students have derisory graduation rates, crushing levels of debts and degrees of dubious value.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'We need an education system that puts students, pioneering research and academic freedom at its heart. The government's narrow focus on qualifications and allowing for-profit companies to enter the university market cannot achieve this.

'This white paper sets out a clear vision for an alternative system and should kick-start the debate about what higher education should be for and what it looks like.'