Creating a charter of core values for universities that people across the sector can rally around and defend is the aim of a forthcoming event.
The Convention for Higher Education, being held in Brighton on 24 and 25 May, is being organised by the University of Brighton’s Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics.
The event is co-sponsored by the Campaign for the Public University, the Council for the Defence of British Universities and the local branch of the University and College Union.
“Higher education is under attack in a way it has not been before,” argued organiser Bob Brecher, professor of ethics at Brighton, with the government creating “a highly elitist system for those who can afford it and second-best [provision] for everybody else”.
He said the convention would encourage participants to adopt a charter “specific enough to suggest ways of actively resisting what is happening while attracting widespread support”.
Professor Brecher added: “It could help academics on the ground feel they are not alone and give a sense they can actually do things.”
Tom Hickey, deputy course leader of the humanities MA at Brighton, said: “We wanted to pull these groups together with a view to making a statement about HE as a social good, a social investment rather than an individual investment.”
He claimed that concerns about the government’s commercialisation and privatisation agenda for the academy “cut across party lines. People feel that if they just let the reforms unfold, they are themselves complicit in them.”
Mr Hickey said that draft ideas for the charter would be distributed in advance and then discussed, “with a view to sending it out to every institution so it can be debated campus by campus”.
Speakers set to address the event include Martin Hall, vice-chancellor of the University of Salford, Sir Peter Scott, professor of higher education studies at the Institute of Education, University of London, Will Hutton, principal of Hertford College, Oxford, Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, and many leading academics.