UPP’s Jon Wakeford opens the 2019 HEPI Conference

On Thursday 13 June 2019, Jon Wakeford, UPP’s Group Corporate Affairs Director and Chair of the UPP Foundation, provided the opening speech at the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) annual conference.

The theme of the conference, which was sponsored by UPP, was ‘What is University For?

Future-proofing the sector in the age of risk and regulation’ and included a keynote address from the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Chris Skidmore MP.

Opening the annual conference, Jon’s address highlighted the need for regulation to recognise the nuanced models of provision that currently exist within the sector as key to the continued success story of Higher Education.

He discussed the impact that Augar would have on balancing the interests of stakeholders that are critical to the sector, highlighting that there is more work to be done to help institutions demonstrate their value to society.

He explained that he was hopeful that initiatives such as the introduction of civic university agreements based on work by the UPP Foundation – which more than 50 universities have now signed up to – would help to do so.

Jon went on to say that a key focus of the conference would be on the Review of Post-18 Education and Funding, citing research from London Economics which identifies the reduction in the tuition fee cap to £7,500 as having a £2bn impact on the gross fee income to the sector per annual intake.

He explained that, in the context of future proofing, Augar brings with it a “risk of unintended consequences – to universities but also to students”. He went on to say that the UK Higher Education sector is facing fierce global competition to defend its world leading status, and “we need to ensure that our universities can do so using all the resources and revenue streams available to them.”

Concluding his speech, Jon said that the sector has shown it is a success story in how to operate with autonomy in a regulated market. Speaking to the potential effects of Augar, he said that the sector should be “empowered” to make the new proposed funding settlement work in the interests of all.