The HE Bite: 29th September – what happened when the Labour Conference came to Brighton?
This year, the annual Labour Conference was hosted in Net Natives’ home by the sea, where Jeremy Corbyn drove home the veracity of the party he emphasised was now mainstream, to a crowd ready to hear fresh policy proposals.
In his September 27th address, which touched on everything from the lack of unity among the Tories, the NHS and housing inequality to relations with Europe, Jeremy Corbyn once again noted the abolishment of tuition fees and the creation of a National Education Service that will cover tuition fees, technical and vocational training. Described earlier by Corbyn as being modelled on the NHS, the NES is meant to address economic inequality by educating people on all ends of the socio-economic spectrum. It was also included in the 2017 party Manifesto, which you can read in full here.
The theme of education policy at the Labour conference was one that covered students from “cradle to grave” with the goal to ensure lifelong learning.
Corbyn’s address followed that of Angela Rayner, Shadow Secretary of Education. In Rayner’s keynote speech she outlined a 10-point plan to underpin the creation of the National Education Service. Her speech also included criticism of the Conservative government’s perceived failures at following through on education policy reforms outlined in their manifesto, including the establishment of new schools and the provision of free breakfast for pupils.
Interestingly, the abolishment of tuition fees was not mentioned by Rayner. Labour gained shares of the 18-40 vote in June in a move that was attributed to the popular pledge of free tuition fees. Although Jeremy Corbyn later mentioned tuition in his address, the Shadow Secretary focused on wider commitment to education and the specific failures of the Conservative party. Absent in both their speeches was the issue of Vice-Chancellor pay that has dominated headlines after comments by Jo Johnson and others.
The theme of economic empowerment through a restructuring of higher education policy was driven home in party leadership speeches and fringe events throughout the week in Brighton. In an event (hosted by the Higher Education Policy Institute) on the 25th, Shadow Ministry Chi Onwurah stated that Labour is looking at “the economic impact of universities and the economic choices of graduates” as an “integral part of educational and industrial policy”.
We’re looking forward to covering the Conservative Party Conference in next week’s HE Bite – keep your eyes peeled.