The grass-roots campaign group Science is Vital (http://scienceisvital.org.uk) shares the Royal Society president's concerns over aspects of the government's Higher Education and Research Bill (see V. Ramakrishnan Nature 538, 459; 2016).
The bill does not yet offer sufficient protection for the operational autonomy of the UK research councils. Neither does it provide legal guarantees that future reforms will take into account the views of Parliament or the research community.
We are also alarmed by mechanisms the bill could use to aid entry and exit of institutions from the higher-education 'market'. For example, the new Office for Students will have the power to revoke university status without parliamentary assent. Such powers undermine support for the autonomy of seats of learning and enquiry that have proved their cultural worth for generations.
In our view, verbal assurances from the Minister for Universities and Science are insufficient. The stated “primacy of scientific and academic decision-making” must be enshrined in the bill.
As the bill is readied for its third reading before being debated in the House of Lords, we call on the UK research community to contact their MPs urgently to relay concerns about the dangers in this proposed legislation (see go.nature.com/2fsmclc).