‘No deal’ planning starts here

Today I started with my preparations for a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario, in which the United Kingdom leaves the European Union and, absent an agreement setting out our future relationship with our continental neighbours, heads off into the wilderness to do its own thing. (Which is known, in the parlance, as ‘taking back control’.) But my preparations didn’t involve stockpiling food or securing a supply of medication. Oh, no. As with most things around here, it was the dogs’ fault. Continue reading

In Newman’s footsteps

One of the many inevitabilities of higher education policy discussion is that, sooner or later, someone will raise the question of what universities are actually for. So inevitable is this phenomenon, in fact, that I’ve seen it mooted that it be named Newman’s Law, after John Henry Newman, who famously asked this question back in 1852. But in trying to give a definitive answer, I think we’re missing a trick. Because there is no single answer. Rather, there are many. And they are all equally valid. Continue reading

What university did for me

There’s a lot of talk going on about the value of universities and the value for money that a degree course represents for students, taxpayers and society as a whole. Indeed, I’ve been doing a fair bit of the talking. But I’d also like to take a moment to reflect on what my own time at university did for me. Because there’s all too much focus at the moment on graduate jobs and salaries, which are – in my view – only a very small part of the story. Continue reading

Budget 2018: All talk, little to inspire

There are budgets that go down in history as a turning point in the nation’s fortunes. That set a clear and resolute course to steer for the betterment of the British polity, economy and society. The budget presented to Parliament yesterday by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not one of these. Instead, it was  – at best – a placeholder. The political equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders. An admission that, quite frankly, what will happen in the next twelve months is anyone’s guess. Continue reading

The great funding challenge

The Government is very good at telling us how much funding it is allocating to different services. But it is less good at focusing on how well these services are doing. The Performance Tracker, published by the Institute for Government and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) bridges this gap. And its findings are far from reassuring. Continue reading

Local government in crisis

With each week that passes, it seems that another local authority joins the list of those whose finances have reached crisis point. First it was Northamptonshire County Council that hit the headlines, but top-tier councils in Sussex, Lancashire, Suffolk, Surrey, Torbay and Oxfordshire also seem to be feeling the heat. And Somerset County Council, down the road from me, has just voted through £28 million of cuts over the next two years, leading opposition councillors to describe the council as on the ‘brink of bankruptcy’. Continue reading

Someone to watch over me

It was my mother’s birthday at the weekend and a formal family gathering had been declared. So Molly (my older Labrador) and I headed down to her house on Saturday afternoon, to join my mother and siblings for the celebrations that evening and the next day. Natalie and Ozzy (our five-month-old puppy) stayed at home, the latter not yet ready to face the full force of my family. Continue reading

Enter the Doughnut

Doughnut Economics.jpgI’m not an economist. But I do know that economics is broken. The economic models of the past have created a world in which human well-being and our planet’s natural resources are being sacrificed on the altar of economic growth.

These models have failed to predict, to prevent or to respond to the financial crises that have shaken our society. They have allowed inequality to flourish. And yet they are still taught in classrooms and lecture theatres across the world.

We need a new way of thinking about economics. And we need it now. Continue reading