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Lecturers' leader calls for end to 'fag packet' education policy making

31 May 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

Paul Mackney, joint general secretary of UCU, today said many of the government's education policies are not based on evidence but on ill considered 'fag packet' ideas.

He warned that further and higher education are experiencing creeping privatisation, disguised as 'public reform'.

He challenged the government to change direction and reassert a public-sector ethic.

Mr Mackney, who today ends a decade in the role as a lecturers' leader, was speaking to the first annual national congress of UCU, in Bournemouth.

As one of the architects of the new union, created in a merger of NATFHE and AUT, he said the merger was the right thing to do, and he urged union members to ensure that UCU becomes 'the guardian of colleges and universities'.

Amongst his comments,  Paul Mackney said: 'We need a reassertion of the public sector ethic rather than relentless privatisation.

'We've experienced privatisation before: in the 1980s with dodgy training schemes; in the 1990s with spectacular financial crashes, ghost classes, phantom registers, franchising frauds, shoddy quality.

'We don't need training outfits run by spivs who wouldn't recognise an educational argument if it were spray-painted on their company cars.

'For all the talk about evidence-based policy making, what we are seeing is policy-making grounded in amnesia from the back of the Fag Packet Institute, pushing ideas which even Keith Joseph didn't have the guts to articulate ... ideas usually expressed in a strange kind of quanguage which somehow manages totally to divorce words from their meaning.'

On education ministers, he recounted his mixed experiences: 'There have been a lot of lifelong learning ministers. For all the talk about lifelong learning, few of them have lasted longer than a year.'