Monday, 14 January 2013

 Applying Student Number Controls to Alternative Providers with Designated Courses. Response to BIS Consultation from Professor Geoffrey Alderman

Name of organisation (or name of person if the response is a personal response and is not submitted on behalf of an organisation)?

What type of organisation is it? (e.g. Alternative Provider, HEI, FEC, Regulatory Body etc.)

Professor Geoffrey Alderman [Personal Response]

Question 2

Do you have a preference for Method 1 (control based on eligible students) or Method 2 (control based on students accessing funding)? If so, why is this?


Question 3

What is your view on submission of data to HESA? Do you think designated courses at alternative providers should participate in the Key Information Set and therefore complete the National Student Survey and Destination of Leavers in Higher Education survey (if student numbers are large enough to permit this)?


Question 4

Are there any other methods for controlling student numbers on designated courses at alternative providers that you would recommend instead of Method 1 or Method 2?  
The consultation seems to conflate two separate issues. The first is the manifest duty of the Government to control public expenditure.  The second is the freedom of a higher education institution to choose those students to whom it wishes to offer places. If an institution wishes to offer – say – 200 places on a particular designated programme of study, but the government only wants to fund – say – 50, let the government choose which 50, and inform the remainder accordingly. Why shift the responsibility to the institution?

Question 5

Do you agree that there should be an exemption from student number controls for alternative providers with small numbers of students accessing student support? If so, do you have suggestions as to how the Department should define ‘very small’?
No exemptions.  The principle must apply to all.  [Otherwise there is a grave danger of abuse of the system – an alternative provider might be tempted to ‘parcel itself’ into smaller units to gain the exemption]


Question 6

Equality considerations: Do you think that the proposals for applying student number controls will have any equality implications (e.g. positive, negative, or neutral) for people with protected characteristics (as set out in the Equality Act 2010), or people from low income groups?  What impacts might there be and do you have any evidence of possible impacts?

Question 7

Do you have any other comments on the proposals within this consultation document?
1.      The consultation professes that it wishes to “create a more level playing field of regulation between similar providers,” but the policy outlined does not do that. For example, the document proposes that alternative providers must have each relevant course “designated,” and could have this course-specific designation revoked. Why is this draconian principle not being applied to taxpayer-funded providers? Why do taxpayer-funded providers enjoy a ‘blanket’ designation, but not alternative providers?

2.  The consultation document ignores completely those “mixed-economy” institutions that offer both FE and HE and which are currently inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI). There is not a single mention of the ISI in the entire document. Why? Is the intention of the Department to “squeeze out” the ISI from all designated provision? If so this is wholly wrong.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

United Nations Human Rights Council

“International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Submission from Professor Geoffrey Alderman


1.      This document evidences the submission of Professor Geoffrey Alderman to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s investigation entitled “International Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

2.      This submission is made by Professor Geoffrey Alderman exclusively in his personal capacity.

3.      This submission addresses only the issue of the legality of Israeli settlements in the territory commonly referred to as “The West Bank,” more especially in the context of the Human Rights Council’s reference to “occupied Palestinian territory.”

Professor Geoffrey Alderman

4.      Professor Geoffrey Alderman is a graduate of the University of Oxford, where he studied Modern History and from which he holds the degrees of Master of Arts, Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Letters.

5.      Professor Alderman is a much-published academic specialising, inter alia, in the history of the Jewish people.  He is also a prize-winning journalist.

6.      Professor Alderman has held senior posts in the University of London, Middlesex University and Touro College (New York). He is currently Professor of Politics & Contemporary History at the University of Buckingham (England).

7.      Professor Alderman is an elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (UK) and a Life Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts (UK).

8.      Further information about Professor Alderman may be found at his website: .


9.      Persons who are Jewish by virtue of ethnicity have the right of settlement in Judea and Samaria (the territory otherwise known as the West Bank). This right derives from the precise terms of the Palestine Mandate (1922) as given to the United Kingdom by the League of Nations. Article 6 of that Mandate obligated the mandatory power “to facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and [to] … encourage… close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes”.

10.  “The land” in this context referred to the land within the geographical limits of the entire territory encompassed by the Mandate, and included - therefore – the West Bank in its totality.

11.  Consequently, this right was lawfully exercised by Jewish people during the period 1922-1948. Its exercise was unlawfully suppressed by the government of Jordan, which controlled the West Bank from 1948 until 1967, when it fell under the control of the government of the State of Israel. This control has enabled the right to be exercised once more.

12.  It is important to remember in this context that the Palestine Mandate has never been rescinded. On the contrary, the rights of ethnic Jews, as referred to in the Mandate, have been expressly guaranteed by the founding Charter of the United Nations Organisation.

13.  Article 80 of the Charter of the United Nations states that “Nothing in this Chapter [dealing with the establishment of Trusteeships and Trustee Agreements] shall be construed in or of itself to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of… any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which Members of the United Nations may respectively be parties.” [author’s emphasis]

14.  No Trustee Agreement has ever been entered into relating to the Palestine Mandate, and the Mandate itself has neither been revoked nor suspended. It is, therefore, in pursuance of Article 80 of the UN Charter, an “existing international instrument,” whose efficacy and purport that Article intentionally guarantees.

15.  The government of the State of Israel – which currently controls and administers parts of the territory known as the West Bank – is, therefore, under a legal obligation to ensure that the right of ethnic Jews to settle within that territory is honoured and facilitated.

16.  As matter of international law, Israel is, furthermore, fully entitled and indeed obligated not merely to permit the voluntary settlement of ethnic Jews beyond the so-called Green Line, but to take any and all such other steps as may be deemed necessary to protect ethnic Jewish populations so settled.

17.  These steps may include the building of walls, fences and ramparts, the imposition of curfews, the suppression of assemblies, the erection of checkpoints and gun emplacements, and the restraint of materials likely to incite violence against persons of Jewish ethnicity.


18.  Professor Alderman will be pleased to dilate upon this Submission should the Human Rights Council so wish.

19.  This Submission may be made public, provided that it is published in full and without amendment of any kind.

Professor Geoffrey Alderman

22 October 2012

Sunday, 5 August 2012




Professor Geoffrey Alderman, the internationally-known authority on the shortcomings of the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), described himself as ‘deeply shocked’ on receiving feedback following his failure to be short-listed for the post of Director of Educational Oversight at the QAA.

‘Following my utter devastation [Alderman explained] at not being short-listed, and being naturally anxious to improve myself and enhance whatever career prospects I may still perchance enjoy, I asked the QAA for some honest-to-goodness feedback on my failure. This morning I got it, in the form of an email from the Agency’s Human Resources & Organisational Development secretariat.’

‘Typically, the QAA did not mince its words [Alderman continued]. In a hard-hitting judgement it declared that my application had contained only ‘partial evidence’ of meeting the QAA’s exacting selection criteria in two areas, namely "resource management" and "well developed interpersonal skills and ability to work effectively with senior staff in institutions and other organisations (including UKBA)”.’

‘My gast was flabbered! After all, my carefully crafted application for this post highlighted, inter alia, my experience in relation to the strategic management of an HE institution whose operating budget ran into well over £100 millions per annum. What is more, the application pointed out that key players in the Home Office in relation to Tier 4 (international students) were personally known to me.’

Asked whether it might not be true that, at least to some extent, he lacked the ability to ‘work effectively’ with one or two senior staff Alderman launched into a robust defence of his managerial profile. ‘Working effectively [he insisted] is not the same as being liked. Some people (offhand I can't think who) may not like me.  But by jingo they sit up and take notice whenever I put finger to word-processor.’

Alderman added that he understood no-one had been appointed to the post of Director of Educational Oversight at the QAA. ‘I’m prepared to forgive and forget,’ he explained, and I have told the Agency that – in the national interest -  I am standing by to take up this important position at a moment’s notice.’

Note for Editors:
‘Educational Oversight’ is a newly-established inspection process which the QAA runs on behalf of the UK Border Agency.

Professor Alderman, who holds an endowed professorship at the University of Buckingham and is a visiting professor at several UK and overseas universities, may be contacted or on 07850-457289.

This statement is issued by Professor Alderman in a personal capacity.

[1 August 2012]

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Let’s Rejoice As We Commemorate The Heroes Of Bomber Command

Today Her Majesty the Queen will unveil in London an imposing but controversial memorial to Bomber Command. Specifically the memorial honours the memory of the 55,573 British and Commonwealth airmen who gave their lives as crew-members of Bomber Command during the Second World War.  Some of these (like my uncle, the late Sargeant Henry Landau, who flew as the “air bomber” in a Mark III Lancaster in 166 Squadron: ) have no known graves, and their names are therefore already memorialised at the RAF memorial at Runnymede, opened by the Queen in 1953. The memorial that the Queen will unveil today commemorates them and their comrades whose last resting places are known. But it also includes an inscription remembering “those of all nations who lost their lives in the bombing of 1939 – 1945.”

Behind this curious wording – and the fact that it appears following what has been described as a “negotiation” with Germany – there lies sixty years and more of totally misplaced controversy over the exploits of Bomber Command, and specifically over the policy of Area Bombing devised by Air Marshal Arthur “Bomber” Harris (whose own statue, in The Strand, London, was vandalised within 24 hours of its unveiling in 1992).

Area bombing undoubtedly led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of German civilians. It is too easy to moralise now about these deaths, and it is an act of intellectual laziness into the bargain.  The past can only be understood, and judged, in its own terms. For several years after the British defeat at Dunkirk in 1940 the sorties of Bomber Command offered the only way in which the struggle against Nazi Germany could be taken into Germany itself – right into the heart of the enemy’s camp.

Among the many accomplishments of the brave men who flew in Bomber Command (and of the ground crews who serviced their aircraft) was that their exploits forced the Nazis to concentrate on the manufacture of defensive weaponry (such as anti-aircraft guns) rather than offensive armaments (such as tanks). Arthur Harris’s Strategic Air Campaign also resulted in very substantial rates of absenteeism from German factories dedicated to the production of munitions of war. We know that the Dambusters’ raid (May 1943) resulted in the deaths of civilians.  But it also led to the movement of bricklayers and stonemasons back to Germany (to repair the damage) from France, where, as Rommel later pointed out, they might have been employed strengthening Nazi defences against the D-Day landings. Yes, Hamburg was fire-bombed (July 1943), leading to the deaths of some 42,600 civilians. But we need to recall that the port of Hamburg housed numerous shipyards, U-boat pens and munitions factories. And can we please remember that Dresden (destroyed by bombing February 1945) was an important railway junction, that the city housed many small factories and workshops making armament components, and that its bombing was actually requested by the USSRBritain’s wartime ally?

We also need to recall that every member of Bomber Command was a volunteer - no-one was forced to enlist into its ranks – and that its activities were extremely popular at the time. The bombing of German cities was popular. This is the truth that must be faced: the killing of German civilians met with widespread approval in blitz-hardened Britain. The “Bomber Boys” were all national heroes.

If, today, some commentators find this truth unpalatable, that’s just too bad. What I find unpalatable is that the memorial which the Queen will unveil today, to honour the memory of my late uncle (shot down in a raid on the rocket factories at Magdeburg in January 1944) and his fallen comrades, also honours – apparently – all those who lost their lives in the bombing of 1939-45.  All? Including paid-up members of the Nazi party? Including German air-crews shot down over the United Kingdom?

I have been told that it is “bad form” to be triumphalist? Why? Bomber Command was about beating the Germans. The Strategic Air Campaign was about winning the war. The activities of Bomber Command were entirely praiseworthy. A memorial to them all – and to them alone - is long overdue.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Mrs Gillian Roberts (1946-2010): The Last Academic Registrar of the University of London

Mrs Gillian Roberts (née Murray) was the last Academic Registrar of the University of London; her retirement in 2006 marked the final stage in the university’s transition from a truly federal academy to what is in effect a loose confederation of academically independent colleges and institutes. As the most senior academic administrator of the university, Mrs. Roberts pivotally assisted in this transition, even though she privately regretted it.

Gillian Frances Murray was born on 3 November 1946 and educated at Sydenham High School and the University of Southampton. In 1967 she was appointed to the Academic Department of the University of London, located at the Senate House in Malet Street. A painstaking draftswoman, of scrupulous integrity and equally meticulous discretion, she moved inevitably up the hierarchical ladder, specialising in the robust academic management of the vast portfolio of degree programmes offered both by the federal university, by its constituent colleges and through its world-renowned system of external degrees.

At that time no college exercised its own degree-awarding powers; institutions so empowered that were admitted to the federation had to agree not to use such powers as they might have had. All degree proposals had to be vetted by subject-based and federally located “Boards of Studies” before being submitted to the democratically elected Academic Council that acted as the most senior academic quality assurance body in the entire university.

This matrix ensured federal oversight, by the university, of all degrees awarded in its name. But it was already under attack when Mrs. Roberts succeeded to the post of Academic Registrar in 1983. Some of the university’s constituent colleges were then already larger than some unitary self-governing universities. The 1992 transformation of the polytechnics into universities with their own degree-awarding powers added to the pressure for change. But the fatal blow to federal oversight of academic standards was delivered by a cabal of college heads, frustrated that policies they could push through their respective institutions could – and not infrequently were – vetoed at federal level, sometimes on the initiative of their own academic staff.

As Academic Registrar Mrs. Roberts was also secretary to the Senate, in which capacity it fell to her to oversee two major reforms of the university’s structure as well as innumerable academic reviews. That the university still survives owes much to her diplomatic skills, exercised always as a loyal servant of the university but also as champion of its reputation for academic excellence.

For many years Mrs. Roberts acted as the representative of the university on the City Parochial Foundation. She died on 9 September 2010 and is survived by her husband, Andrew Clive Roberts, whom she married in 1969. There were no children of the marriage.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Referee Criticism: Freedom of expression and public criticism of officials

"Alex Ferguson, Manager of Manchester United football club, recently received a five-match 'touchline ban' and a £30,000 fine for publicly criticising a match referee. The Football Association (FA) judged him to be in breach of rule E3, which prohibits actions judged as bringing the game into disrepute. Gregory Ioannidis and Geoffrey Alderman, of the University of Buckingham, examine the legal and moral grounds for removing the right to free speech, the reasons for the FA's decision, whether the specificity of sport justifies the removal of such an important right and whether action is possible against the FA for abuse of power."

‘Referee Criticism: Freedom of expression and public criticism of officials,’ World Sports Law Report [G. Alderman & G. Ioannidis] (vol. 9, no.4, April 2011)

Friday, 17 December 2010

Dr Cable's Nightmare

On 15 November Business Secretary Vince Cable, whose departmental responsibilities include those related to higher education, delivered a speech to the Girls’ School Association at its annual meeting in Manchester. Much of his address was devoted to the plight of taxpayer-funded universities – specifically English taxpayer-funded universities, which currently include Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College, University College London, and the London School of Economics. By any university league-table you care to choose, these institutions are amongst the very best in the world. By common agreement they – along with all English taxpayer-funded universities – are grossly underfunded. The coalition government of which Dr Cable is a member had, earlier in the month, signalled its intention to legislate so as to permit all these universities to raise the maximum undergraduate tuition fee they can currently charge from £3,290 to £6,000 or – if they agree to certain conditions – to £9,000 per annum. This announcement had given rise to widespread student protests. So Dr Cable decided to devote much of his Manchester speech to explaining why the decision had been taken.

He did not mince his words. “We already [he said] have a lot of universities that are effectively broke. If they were in the private sector they would have been filing for bankruptcy. Various arrangements have been cobbled together to keep them going, and we can't continue to do that." The government, he explained, had no more money to pump into higher education, so other sources of funding must be found. And whilst the government had rejected the centrepiece recommendation of Lord Browne review, that the ‘cap’ on undergraduate tuition fees should be removed altogether, it had agreed to the cap being lifted in two stages: a ‘soft’ cap of £6000 that any university could charge, and a ‘hard’ cap of between £6,000 and £9000 that could be charged provided certain conditions were adhered to. And then Dr Cable made an astonishing admission: "One of the reasons were are doing this is precisely to head off Oxford, Cambridge, London School of Economics, University College London and a few others from going private, because if we had not opened up the system in the way we have, they would have had a very strong incentive to do so."

In other words, Dr Cable chose to lay at least some of the blame for the unpalatable decision the coalition government had had to take upon a handful of elite institutions that had – he declared – threatened to “privatise” [his word] if the ‘cap’ were not removed altogether. Faced with this ultimatum, the government had had to do something, and what it had chosen to do – to raise but not abolish the cap – had made the best of a bad job. Rather than protest – he implied – students and their funding fathers and mothers should be grateful that the government had grasped this nettle, though – he admitted - there could be no guarantee that one or more of these elite academies would not “privatise” at some future date. "Whether we shall head them off [he added ominously], I don't know."

This was a very odd speech for Dr Cable to have made at the annual meeting of the GSA, which is, after all, (as its website proclaims) “the professional association representing the Heads of leading independent girls’ schools in the UK.” For “independent” here read “private,” of course. If the government has no more money to give to the university sector, a decision by a university to go private would – surely – be a blessing for the government, not the curse, the unmitigated evil that Dr Cable insisted it would be.

As a matter of fact all English universities are private. All, without exception. Every university in England – indeed in the UK – is a private corporation, deriving its status and authority either from a Royal Charter (such as Oxford and Cambridge), from a specific, private Act of Parliament (such as the University of London) or from an order made under a more general parliamentary statute (such as the polytechnics raised to university status under the provisions of the Further & Higher Education Act of 1992). All English universities are private. But some are more private than others. The University of Buckingham (established by Royal Charter in 1983) is completely private, because it does not accept one penny of taxpayers’ money. In 2008-9 the University of Cambridge derived just 18 per cent of its annual income from direct government grants; at Oxford the proportion was a little higher, at 23 per cent. At the other end of the scale there are universities that rely on government grants – direct grants from the English Funding Council and (if relevant) from the Training & Development Agency for Schools - for very large proportions of their total incoming funds. At the University of Gloucestershire, for instance, the figure is around 46 per cent, and at Leeds Metropolitan around 45 per cent.

‘Going private’ means that universities, whilst continuing to receive tuition fees (the levels of which they themselves would be completely free to set, as at Buckingham), and while continuing to enjoy such research income and endowments as they could attract, would no longer receive funding-body grants. That is the basic truth behind university ‘privatisation.’ But it is not the whole truth.

The conditions under which a block grant is made to a university by the Funding Council are set out in a Financial Memorandum – in effect a contract between the two parties. At its website the Higher Education Funding Council for England reproduces its current “model” Financial Memorandum. In return for its annual block grant, the HEFCE can (amongst other things) insist that the quality of teaching and learning is “assessed” in a prescribed manner, that the institution in receipt of grant agrees to submit to a periodic HEFCE-driven assessment of its research, that the institution agrees to subscribe to the Quality Assurance Agency and to submit to QAA academic audit and – more ominously – that “value for money” is being achieved. HEFCE-funded institutions must also ensure that their strategic policy objectives mesh with and support those of the Funding Council. They must demonstrate that they are managing their “estate” in a sustainable way, and that they have, and operate, an approved “carbon management plan.” HEFCE demands “unrestricted access to information – including all records, assets, personnel and premises – and can require anyone to give any explanation which it considers necessary to fulfil its responsibilities.” And it reserves the right to impose special conditions on receipt of grant if it thinks fit.

It is important to remember that all these conditions apply irrespective of how great or how small the quantum of the block grant in any particular year. If so much as £1 of taxpayer’s money is made available to an institution by way of grant, all these conditions apply. And they are, of course, in addition to a university’s statutory responsibilities – for example under Equality and Health & Safety legislation.

In brief, a university in receipt of HEFCE grant has very little institutional autonomy. It does not have a soul to call its own. It must do what HEFCE says, when HEFCE says it. And if Dr Cable and his ministerial colleagues have their way, the supposed freedom that they will give to universities to charge higher tuition fees (now approved by Parliament) will also come with thick strings attached. In response to the publication of the Browne review, the government will, with effect from September 2012, permit publicly-funded universities to charge up to – but not more than - £9,000 per annum, but that if they want to charge more than £6,000 they will apparently have to agree to a raft of measures including offering bursaries, summer schools and “outreach” programmes, so as to promote applications from students from poorer backgrounds. To this end universities will be obliged to enter into “access agreements” with the Office for Fair Access; if this Office determines that an agreement has been broken, it will have the power to impose a fine, the proceeds of which will be redirected – it is said - to support disadvantaged students.

I am not for one moment saying that students from disadvantaged backgrounds should not be supported. They should. But we need to be clear that it is the present government’s clear intention to impose upon the English publicly-funded institutions of higher education a draconian regime of command-and-control should they wish to charge anything above the ‘soft’ cap of £6000. This regime could well include compelling institutions to lower their academic standards (in terms of entry requirements) so as to support some new Downing-Street-mandated strategic objective which, however laudable in itself (increasing participation in higher education by students from poorer homes) is not – in my view - one that universities should be compelled to underwrite.

The key to widening participation in higher education lies in the improvement of the quality of education in the state-funded primary and secondary education sectors. No university in its right mind should ever have to turn away an academically gifted student, irrespective of that student’s financial circumstances. Equally, no university in its right mind should ever have to lower its entry requirements merely to fulfil a politically-driven condition of the receipt of taxpayers’ money.

Clearly, that is not Dr Cable’s view. Reading between the lines of his address to the Girls’ School Association it is clear that his view – and presumably that of the coalition government of which he is a leading member – is that a university that goes “private” puts itself beyond the reach of the Funding Council, and hence beyond the scrutiny and reach of Whitehall. This he and his government view as a disaster to be avoided at all costs, certainly at the cost of permitting some universities to charge a relatively high undergraduate tuition fee.

I do not know whether any of the elite institutions mentioned by Dr Cable had in fact sent him an ultimatum: permit us to charge higher fees or we will go private. I do know this. If a number of elite institutions had indeed given the ultimatum that Dr Cable alleged they had delivered, why did he not simply dare them to carry out their threat? And I think I know the answer to this question.

Geoffrey Alderman