Nolan says no to more rules

December 8, 1995

Higher education does not need more external regulation to make it open and accountable, Lord Nolan, chairman of the committee on standards in public life, has concluded, writes Tony Tysome.

The committee, which is currently taking evidence on public spending bodies including universities and colleges, is more likely to call for internal monitoring than outside interference, he said.

In a video interview screened at the "From Athenaeum to Antithesis" conference, sponsored by The THES, Lord Nolan said he thought over-regulation was to be avoided in higher education.

"We are well aware of the very high degree of external regulation to which universities and higher education colleges are subjected at the moment. If we do have any suggestions in the way of future regulation at all, it would be more in the way of regulating internal structures," he said.

The committee was interested in higher education institutions, particularly the old universities, because they were "very experienced as troubleshooters" in adjusting to change in public and political life.

"We are interested to see how they have gone about tackling these problems and how they are adapting their practices to modern conditions," he said.

But Lord Nolan was not inclined to hold the "old" universities up as a model for the rest of the sector to follow.

"There is a very interesting comparison to be made between the relatively formalised structures of the old universities and the relatively simple of the new. But I am by no means saying that one is to be preferred to the other. What I am saying is that there may be lessons to be learned from each," he said.

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