In November 2015, the Green Paper on higher education reform was released by the government. Within the paper, it was proposed to remove universities from the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, which means they would be exempt from FoI requests and in turn students could no longer find out where their money is going or hold their universities to account.
This attempts to “level the playing field” with private education providers. English universities would be kept out of the public domain, aiding the provisions set out by the Green Paper to make it easier for new, private providers to enter the “market”.
In a report released by The Independent last month, it was said that this comes after the UK’s elite universities asked to be “exempted” from providing information under the Act. Russell group university, the University of Warwick, seems to have also taken this stance.
Warwick’s student paper, The Boar, was leaked a copy of their University’s green paper consultation responses last week, stating its position that “universities should not remain within the scope of the Freedom of Information Act”. Being so close to the deadline for submitting consultation responses to the government on Friday 15 January, it seems likely that this was Warwick’s final position.
The Green Paper proposal could have disastrous effects on student journalism and campaigning, and the student editors at The Boar are particularly worried, calling for the University to alter its position in favour of “transparency, openness, and democracy”.
The Russell Group’s director of policy, Dr Tim Bradshaw, stated that the Freedom of Information requirement has created a “competitive imbalance in the UK higher education market.”