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Queen's Speech shows the government cares little about real threats to academic freedom

10 May 2022

UCU response to Queen's Speech 2022

Responding to today's Queen's Speech, UCU general secretary, Jo Grady said:  
'It is beyond hypocritical for the government to claim to be acting in defense of freedoms whilst legislating to further curtail them. The higher education (freedom of speech) bill, which has been widely criticised by academics and human rights groups, will do nothing to address the real threats to academic freedom, which are widely understood to be the use of precarious employment practices that prevent staff from researching and working freely [NOTE 1], a lack of staff representation in university governance and a management culture which dictates the research academics undertake. If the government really cared about freedoms on campus, it would at the very least have brought forward an employment bill to improve workers' rights including banning the use of precarious contracts.' 
On plans for 'raising standards and improving the quality of schools and higher education', Jo said:

'Raising standards and improving the quality of education must be a primary goal of any government, not least one that continues to have any aspirations of 'levelling up'. However, any plans to improve educational outcomes rely on having a workforce in both further and higher education that feel valued and fairly rewarded. Relentless attacks by employers on the pensions, pay and working conditions of staff have sadly cultivated a deep malaise within post-16 education which ministers continue to refuse to step in and address.'

On the Lifelong Loan Entitlement, Jo said: 

'The student loan system is a broken model that saddles students with punishing levels of debt. Simply extending student loans to those who undertake technical qualifications is not the answer and further proof this government cares little for the aspirations of those from working class backgrounds who may be put off by eye watering amounts of debt. 

'Lifelong loans may also be at the whim of employers that will decide which courses get loans, thereby dictating what students learn.' 

Last updated: 13 May 2022