Overseas readers start here. The Institute for Public Policy Research has been a top UK think tank since the 1990s, when it was started by David Miliband, later foreign secretary, and brother of the leader of the Labour Party. Yes, you are right to think that we are eliding a lot of history here, but it is a little beyond the scope of this post. Anyway, the IPPR is, to lapse into cliché, a true thought leader of the UK left.
Overseas readers can now stop here.
Because the IPPR has just called for evidence for a new inquiry it is holding into higher education in England. You know, England. The country that houses Cambridge, top university in the QS World University Rankings, as well as Oxford, UCL and many other global hitters in planetary HE. That nation whose university finances are saved by foreign student fees, and which is the biggest swallower of European research money (in tandem with the rest of the UK).
So what has the IPPR done? It has asked seven worthy but not very original questions about the future of universities (research, funding, equity, employability, that sort of thing). While some of the questions look at the issues in terms
of the whole UK, none is about England or the UK as a participant in global higher education, despite the existence of about three million overseas student around the world. Those who come to the UK are important financially and academically to UK universities, and are a self-funding form of British soft power.
IPPR’s stated aim is to produce a successor document to the big pillars of UK higher education thought: Robbins in the 1960s, Dearing in the 1990s and Browne (a little less magisterially) in the 21st century. But without a proper view of the English and UK systems on the world stage, it risks being a footnote.