The House of Lords has defeated the government’s highly controversial University Bill, the Guardian reports. A cross part revolt backed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats helped to pass an amendment on the Bill, foiling its chances of success by 248 votes to 221.
The Lords had voiced their reservations about the University Bill last week, saying that allowing more for-profit colleges university status, was an unacceptable commercialisation of the sector.
The government continued to argue that the University Bill would raise standards and increase competition in the university sector, by “making it easier for new high-quality providers to start up and achieve degree-awarding powers, and subsequently secure university status.”
Labour’s House of Lords peer Wilf Stevenson led the tabling of amendments on the Bill. Among the demands were clauses barring universities from seeking profit and remaining autonomous bodies, with entrenched academic and political freedom. The demands forced a committee-stage vote on the Bill, a rarity for the Lords. The amendments effectively restrict the powers of the new universities that the government intends to create.
Lord Stevenson wrote in the amendments proposition:
“The purpose of our amendment is simple: the bill does not define a university and we think it is important that it does. We do not simply itemise some core functions of a university but also scope out the role, with implicit ideals of responsibility, engagement and public service.”
Chris Patten, Oxford University chancellor and former Conservative party chair described the Bill as a hamfisted attempt by the government saying:
“Worst of all is the power given to the Office for Students to revoke the acts of parliament or royal charters that have established our universities. How can it be right to allow institutions, some of very ancient standing, to be abolished with only weak parliamentary scrutiny? Did Thomas Cromwell write this part of the bill?”