Education

Academic freedom in the UK

Britain’s universities are world-leading. Yet there is growing concern that academic freedom in these institutions is being undermined in a way that departs from the liberal traditions and democratic norms of British society. This paper uses one of the largest representative samples of UK- based academics carried out in recent years to explore the concern that strongly-held political attitudes are restricting the freedom of those who disagree to research and teach on contested subjects. The report sets out what might be done, in the form of legislation—specifically an Academic Freedom Bill—and other measures to ensure that a) universities support intellectual dissent, which drives progress and innovation and b) all lawful speech is protected on campus.

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Why universities had to be challenged

It is now official. The helter skelter expansion of UK higher education ushered in 21 years ago by Tony Blair’s pledge to send half of school leavers to university is now at an end.

And the announcement by the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, came not a moment too soon. The headlong rush into mass academic higher education, leapfrogging even the US, happened faster in the UK than in most other comparable countries and it seemed to happen on automatic pilot, with remarkably little thought given to the economic or social consequences. The only serious debate we ever had was on tuition fees.

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The Training We Need Now

Vocational education and training, especially for those not heading to university, has been one of the biggest public policy failures of the last 25 years. The Covid-19 economic crisis, and how we emerge from it, is an opportunity to do something about it.

The essays in this collection focus on several different aspects of the problem: the lack of decent apprenticeships for school-leavers, the loss of higher manual and technical skills and the decline

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A training opportunity in the crisis

The coronavirus crisis underlines the need for an education and training system that is better aligned with the economic and social needs of the UK, says David Goodhart in this research paper. We can no longer afford the luxury of a wasteful mismatch produced by low value degrees and a disorganised approach to vocational training. The current crisis also offers an opportunity to cut through many of the normal blockages and vested interests, not least since we may – in the wake of the coronavirus crisis – be moving into a period of high unemployment, which will require a radical rethinking of current policy. This paper sets out three reforms that would help to improve the UK’s training and education.

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The Watchmen Revisited

In 2014 Policy Exchange published the seminal report Watching the Watchmen: The future of school inspections in England. While Ofsted today is a much stronger, higher performing and robust organisation than it was in 2014, there is no public body so perfect that it cannot benefit from external scrutiny.

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Universities at the Crossroads

Universities in the UK are not yet in crisis – but they could be if they continue down their current path. In this report, based on over 50 interviews with vice-chancellors, chairs of council and other senior leaders, we set out the steps that university leaders must take if they are to put their institutions on a robust footing and regain the trust of the nation.

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Latest Education Publications

Academic freedom in the UK

Academic freedom in the UK

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Britain’s universities are world-leading. Yet there is growing concern that academic freedom in these institutions is being undermined in a way that departs from the liberal traditions and democratic norms of British society. This paper uses one of the largest representative samples of UK- based academics carried out in recent years to explore the concern that strongly-held political attitudes are restricting the freedom of those who disagree to research and teach on contested subjects. The report sets out what might be done, in the form of legislation—specifically an Academic Freedom Bill—and other measures to ensure that a) universities support intellectual dissent, which drives progress and innovation and b) all lawful speech is protected on campus.

The Training We Need Now

The Training We Need Now

Vocational education and training, especially for those not heading to university, has been one of the biggest public policy failures of the last 25 years. The Covid-19 economic crisis, and how we emerge from it, is an opportunity to do something about it.

The essays in this collection focus on several different aspects of the problem: the lack of decent apprenticeships for school-leavers, the loss of higher manual and technical skills and the decline

A training opportunity in the crisis

A training opportunity in the crisis

The coronavirus crisis underlines the need for an education and training system that is better aligned with the economic and social needs of the UK, says David Goodhart in this research paper. We can no longer afford the luxury of a wasteful mismatch produced by low value degrees and a disorganised approach to vocational training. The current crisis also offers an opportunity to cut through many of the normal blockages and vested interests, not least since we may – in the wake of the coronavirus crisis – be moving into a period of high unemployment, which will require a radical rethinking of current policy. This paper sets out three reforms that would help to improve the UK’s training and education.

Latest Education Blogs

Why universities had to be challenged

Why universities had to be challenged

It is now official. The helter skelter expansion of UK higher education ushered in 21 years ago by Tony Blair’s pledge to send half of school leavers to university is now at an end.

And the announcement by the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, came not a moment too soon. The headlong rush into mass academic higher education, leapfrogging even the US, happened faster in the UK than in most other comparable countries and it seemed to happen on automatic pilot, with remarkably little thought given to the economic or social consequences. The only serious debate we ever had was on tuition fees.

It’s Time to Get Serious About Rebalancing Post-18 Education

It’s Time to Get Serious About Rebalancing Post-18 Education

Today is the final deadline for university applications via UCAS. If previous years are anything to go by, over half a million hopeful applicants will have gone through the process of filling in their forms, making choices, completing personal statements in the hope of going on to an educational experience that will transform their lives.

First Fruits of Education Reform

First Fruits of Education Reform

The UK should feel deservedly pleased with the results of this week’s PISA rankings. Since the last rankings three years ago, it has risen from 22nd to 14th in reading, from 15th to 14th in science and from 27th to 18th in maths. The last is a particular achievement, with the UK improving nine score points over the last three years, one of only a handful of countries to secure a statistically significant increase. The gender gap and rich-poor attainment gap in the UK is also narrower in both cases than the OECD average.

Latest Education News

Brightest minds in education speak at Policy Exchange

Brightest minds in education speak at Policy Exchange

“It’s difficult to think of anyone other than Policy Exchange who has had such an impact on education in this country – apart from E.D. Hirsch,” said Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, Minister of State for Education, in a vote of thanks after Professor Hirsch’s keynote speech, which argued for “a definite knowledge-based curriculum” for all children.

Schools Minster endorses Policy Exchange plan to raise standards while reducing teacher workload

Schools Minster endorses Policy Exchange plan to raise standards while reducing teacher workload

Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP has publically backed the latest education report by Policy Exchange, setting out how standards can continue to be raised in state schools. Completing the Revolution set out how using textbooks produced by respected third-parties like the British Museum can improve the quality of teaching while reducing the time teachers have to spend preparing for lessons. The idea builds upon other school reforms pioneered by Policy Exchange, including free schools and the pupil premium.

Latest Education Events


  • Thursday, 30 May, 2019
    9:00 - 10:00

“For too long, further education has been allowed to stagnate,” said the Prime Minister in a keynote speech at Policy Exchange marking the launch of the Augar Report, a review of Post-18 Education and Funding which she described as a “major landmark” for education policy. She appeared with Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, the Education Secretary, and Philip Augar, who thanked the Government for ““asking the right question” on tertiary education and commissioning his report.


  • Wednesday, 21 November, 2018
    18:00 - 19:30

E. D. Hirsch (Founder, Core Knowledge Foundation and Professor Emeritus, University of Virginia) spoke at Policy Exchange on Forging A Common Language Community in Education: towards smarter, fairer and more unified countries. The event included a Vote of Thanks by Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, Minister of State for School Standards. Download text. About E. D. Hirsch E. D. Hirsch is (more…)


  • Thursday, 30 November, 2017
    18:00 - 19:30

A discussion of the role and importance of working teachers in the era of knowledge-based education. We will be joined by our Guest of Honour, Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, Minister for School Standards—who will deliver a Keynote Address on the value and importance of textbooks in ensuring all young people receive the high-quality education they deserve.

Venue:  

Address:
Policy Exchange, 6th Floor, 8 – 10 Great George St, Westminster, London, SW1P 3AE, United Kingdom


  • Monday, 18 September, 2017
    18:00 - 19:30

Policy Exchange was delighted to host the launch of Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP’s new book ‘Taught Not Caught: Educating for 21st Century Character’. As Education Secretary from 2014-16, Nicky Morgan announced a GBP3.5m programme promoting classes and extra-curricular activities that build “grit” and “resilience” in a generation of schoolchildren. In her new book, she reveals why she believes that building characterful children has a positive impact on academic attainment and argues that public awareness of character education needs to be raised, so it is clear to those in the education system that this is a priority and they will support it.

Venue:  

Address:
Policy Exchange, 6th Floor, 8 – 10 Great George St, Westminster, London, SW1P 3AE, United Kingdom


  • Monday, 25 September, 2017
    8:30 - 9:30

Speakers: Lucy Powell MP, Former Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Dr Christopher McCormick, Executive Vice President, Academic Affairs, EF Education First, Sarah Cooper, Chief Executive, English UK, Iain Dale, broadcaster, publisher and commentator, John Blake, Head of Education and Social Reform, Policy Exchange

Venue:  

Address:
Labour Party Conference, Hall 7, Clyde, Brighton Hilton Metropole, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 2FU, United Kingdom


  • Wednesday, 13 September, 2017
    18:00 - 19:30

Education improvement is a key objective of policy makers and educationalists around the world. To address this need Tim Oates CBE, Cambridge Assessment’s Director of Assessment Research and Development, has led research into and now written A Cambridge Approach to Improving Education – using international insights to manage complexity where he sets out his findings and guiding principles for policy makers. He addressed Policy Exchange, the UK’s most influential think tank on education in the past 15 years, to outline his findings and further the debate on how best to improve education here, and around the world. His talk was followed by a response from UCL’s Dr John Jerrim.

Venue:  

Address:
Policy Exchange, 6th Floor, 8 – 10 Great George St, Westminster, London, SW1P 3AE, United Kingdom

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