Yesterday, my colleague Mike Neary and I met with Dan Cook (who wrote a very good consultancy report for the Co-operative College on Co-operative Universities in 2013), Ian Snaith, a Lawyer and legal scholar specialising in co-operatives, and Smita Jamdar, a Lawyer who specialises in education. Our intention was to look at the new Higher Education and Research Bill (HERB) in some detail, thinking about three scenarios:
- The conversion of an existing university to a co-operative
- The creation of a new co-operative university (a so-called ‘challenger institution’ to use the aggressive new parlance) 1
- The possibility of a foreign co-operative university (e.g. Mondragon) accrediting degrees that are offered by a co-operative in the UK.
In summary, we agreed there will be no real barriers to any of these scenarios should the HERB go through Parliament as it is.
Following our meeting, Dan has published a detailed blog post which annotates the HERB and is well worth a read. There is more work to be done on examining the new legislation and in particular making sure it will fairly accommodate all types of new HEIs, and not just private, profit-making businesses. There are likely to be small changes to the proposed legislation that could actually support the creation of co-operative universities and this is one of the things we’ll be focusing on in the future.
- What to call new forms of higher education? ‘Alternative providers’? ‘Challenger institutions’? I attended a conference last week where people were avoiding the use of ‘alternative’ because they didn’t want their vision of new forms of HE to be confused with the practices of some ‘alternative providers’ and had opted for ‘heterodox universities’ as an overarching term. Personally, I think ‘co-operative higher education’ avoids all of this and benefits from being an already existing organisational form that has a long, progressive social history – longer than most universities.