A government’s word is its bond

November 26, 2015

When the government introduced new policies for higher education fees, it ignored warnings that repayment rates would be much lower than it had claimed. Now that it has acknowledged those lower repayment rates, it proposes to make existing borrowers pay for its miscalculation by changing the terms of loans that they have already taken. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the larger policy, it is not worthy of any government, having actively persuaded students to take loans on the advertised terms, to impose new – and more expensive – terms on existing borrowers.

This has serious implications. Why should anybody trust future agreements if governments may change them at will? By making this proposal, trust between government and young citizens is damaged. University leaders have stayed silent; worse, Universities UK has actually supported the proposal. A recent memorial seminar for Sir David Watson reminded us by his example of the importance of ethical leadership. Is ethical leadership something we can no longer expect from our vice-chancellors?

Bahram Bekhradnia, president, Higher Education Policy Institute
Sir Peter Scott, UCL Institute of Education and former vice-chancellor, Kingston University
Brenda Gourley, former vice-chancellor, Open University
Caroline Gipps, former vice-chancellor, University of Wolverhampton
Ingrid Lunt, former vice-principal, Green Templeton College, Oxford
Rob Cuthbert, former deputy vice-chancellor, University of the West of England
Claire Callender, UCL Institute of Education
Paul Temple, UCL Institute of Education
Gareth Parry, University of Sheffield
Ronald Barnett, UCL Institute of Education
Paul Ashwin, Lancaster University
Mary Henkel, Brunel University London
Vaneeta D'Andrea, University of the Arts London
Maria Slowey, Dublin City University
William Locke, UCL Institute of Education
Lesley Gourlay, UCL Institute of Education
Mary Claire Halvorson, Goldsmiths University of London
Harinder Lawley, Diversity Works

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