The Convention for Higher Education met at University College London on 15 October. This Third Convention was a working meeting discussing the Government’s Higher Education and Research Bill and organising against it.
Delegates agreed that the Convention will call a Lobby of the Third Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons. Convention representatives are already working with the NUS, UCU, CDBU and Gordon Marsden’s office in the Committee Stages.
The Third Reading could be soon – in a matter of two or three weeks.
The Bill will then go to the House of Lords, which will require further lobbying. Baroness Alison Wolf said that we should not be anxious about lobbying the Lords – they relied on people lobbying them to get information.
Important Note: Even when the Bill has passed to the Lords, this does not mean we should not lobby MPs. MPs will get another vote on the Bill when it comes back to the House of Commons at the end of the process.
On 19 November, NUS and UCU have called a National Demonstration for Education. The Third Convention welcomed speakers from the NUS to talk about their campaign and to support the building of it. This unity needed to be carried through on the campuses against the Bill.
The Convention also agreed a strong statement condemning the Home Secretary for suggesting that it was a good idea to limit international student recruitment to UK universities, and even worse – to use the TEF to do so.
What can we all do to try to stop the Bill?
Organise meetings on our campuses and in our communities. Our first task is to bring people together who want to do something. We can all circulate the link to the ‘College, Inc.’ video to colleagues, include a link to the HE Convention website, and ask them if they’d like to help organise a meeting about the HE Bill.
- If you are a student, contact your student union. The NUS is campaigning against the Bill. What do student officers think? Will they email students to advertise the meeting?
- If you are a staff member, approach the UCU, EIS and other campus unions. They all have policy against the HE Bill and will email members to advertise the meeting if you ask nicely!
Think about the audience you are trying to reach. If it is a meeting primarily for staff then an hour-long meeting in the lunchtime may maximise attendance. But you can’t show the whole 50 minute film in an hour and have a discussion!
Invite outside speakers. If you need a speaker from the Convention, email us or add a comment to the website. Think about whether you want to open the meeting up to a Public Meeting and invite MPs to debate. This can draw a crowd, but you may want to start small and build up to a Public Meeting after the Third Reading.
Organise follow-up activities after the meeting. A leaflet that advertises the meeting can also advertise the National Demonstration for Education (Nov 19) or the Lobby of the Third Reading (once the date is announced). Use sign-up sheets to gather names of people who want to get involved. Leaflet canteens, email staff and students, and spread the word! If you are outside of London you’ll also need to plan transport down to Parliamentary lobbies and the National Demonstration.
Lobby your local MP in their constituency. MPs have constituency surgeries. You can arrange to turn up in a large group and ask to speak to the MP about the Bill. It can be powerful to send in a student and a staff member as delegates. But this does not mean you should not try to turn up en masse. Numbers turning up in the constituency help remind MPs that they rely on you for votes. Invite the local press.
Don’t forget Holyrood, Stormont and the Welsh Assembly! In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, you can also lobby local democratic representatives. There is a huge devolution impact of the HE Bill even though its formal provisions are to be implemented in England. At the Third Convention, colleagues from Scotland and Northern Ireland began to plan launches of the Alternative White Paper in their respective parliaments.