Howard Newby, chairman elect of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, will take over the job in interesting times. The Bett committee will just have delivered expensive recommendations for higher education pay. The government will be about to publish its white paper on restructuring post-16 education outside the universities. The Scottish and Welsh assemblies will be testing their new freedoms. And the bills for the Balkan war will be beginning to hurt.
Professor Newby has been involved in the CVCP's central policy-making for some years. He was party to the negotiations that resulted in the Quality Assurance Agency's modifying at least some of its more intrusive proposals, and in recent months he has been loudly alerting his colleagues to the dangers posed by the global higher education ambitions of United States and Australian universities and commercial competitors. More controversially, his years in Wisconsin made him a fan of tiered higher education systems running from open-access community colleges through taught-degree only universities to internationally competitive research universities. Nor is he scared of including differential fees among solutions to underfunding. In short, the CVCP has elected a chairman with a clear agenda, one might almost say a manifesto.
How far he is able to achieve what he would like for the universities will depend largely on the government, so great is now its power of control. Much can, of course, be gained by quiet negotiation. But the CVCP would be wise to back its new chairman by thinking through what recourse universities have if the government proves hard to persuade.