by GK Strategy 27th January, 2017

Policy or Politics – is anyone not in the Higher Education sector actually interested in the Higher Education and Research Bill?

Despite a thirty fold increase in the volume of online conversations about the Higher Education and Research Bill (HERB) coinciding with the first sitting of the Lords Committee stage on January 9th, only a tiny fraction of the online debate concerned the details of Bill itself, suggesting the surge in interest was in the politics of the Government facing a defeat on a vote for an amendment, rather than a discussion on how the content of the Bill will impact the higher education (HE) sector.

Using online analytics, GK Strategy and sister company 140 Group found that social media discussions on the Bill were very low prior to the Bill facing its first day in committee stage in the Lords. There was unsurprisingly a huge spike in online conversations on the 9th January when the Government lost a vote on an amendment tabled by the opposition on university autonomy. Exaggerated media reports of a defeat of the Government Bill were responsible for increasing commentary and social media engagement on the Bill.

GK’s social media analysis showed:

Just 3% of online conversations mentioned any policy detail of the Bill itself
Unsurprisingly, the majority (56%) of online conversations focused on the Government defeat on the vote for an amendment in the Lords
There was significant debate on certain provisions within the Bill from those with a stated interest in the higher education sector, especially in relation to the marketization of the sector.
The top ‘influencer’ on social media was the Guardian, rather than anyone from the HE sector, suggesting it is the politics that was driving traffic rather than any serious debate on the merits of the content of the Bill
Despite the initial hike in social media traffic, since January 13th conversations have returned to pre-committee stage levels (15/day)
Given the seeming lack of interest from the wider public, and the likelihood of further defeats in the Lords for the Government, murmurs are starting to circulate about the future of the Bill itself and whether a pause could be on the cards, though it is worth highlighting the Government remains, publicly at least, committed to its continued passage.

It is also a Bill that was conceived before the Brexit vote in June last year so arguably some of the reforms, such as the changes to science and research funding, could require extra scrutiny as the process for withdrawing from the European Union takes shape.

The question for the sector is more pressing – given the HERB represents the largest shake up to the sector since 1992, how can both sides of the debate reach out beyond their core constituents and engage the broader public in the issues?

Academics may feel strongly about it, but it seems the broader population currently does not.

See more articles by GK Strategy

sort news by category

Insight, Strategy, Impact,

apprenticeships, awards, B2G, Biden, Bills, Blueprint, bolt on, Boris, Boris Johnson, Brexit, business, careers, circular economy, climate change, climate crisis, clinical trials, commissioning, Communications, Consumer, consumer demands, COP, covid, COVID 19, Crisis comms, culture, d, David Laws, decarbonisation, defence, Deregulation, Devolution, Digital, Disruption, diversity, Due Diligence, economic policy, Education, elections, Energy, Energy and Environment, energy efficiency, engagement, Environment, Equality, ESG, EU, europe, exit plan, Financial Services, general election, General News, Germany, gig economy, GK culture, gk report, Government, government affairs, Health, health & Care Bill, health and care, health and social care, health funding, health insights, Healthcare, Hendy, housing, HS2, i have a voice, infrastructure, insight, insight report, insights, integrated review, internship, Investment, Investor, Investor Backed Businesses, Investor Services, investors, Ioan, Jack Sansum, Jeremy Corbyn, job, Labour, labour conference, Labour market, Legislation, legistation, levy, life sciences, local government, lockdown, medical devices, Medicines, membership bodies, mental health, mental health services, nationalisation, NHS, no, No deal, parliament, pharma, pharmaceuticals, Planning, policy, Political Due Diligence, Politics, Pride Month, Prime Minister, Private Equity, Privatisation, Public Affairs, Public Relations, Public spending, Queen's Speech, rail, recruitment, REF, regulation, reshuffle, sales, Scotland, Scott, security, Select Committee, select committees, skills, Social Care, Spending Review, Strategic Communications, students, sustainability, Tax, Technology, The Conservative Party, The Labour Party, trade bodies, transformation, Transport, uk, UK Politics, university, US, US election, Wales, Waste, wind, Winter Plan, women, Workplace,