For universities with a royal charter, the UK government's proposed Higher Education and Research Bill does not “rip up an 800-year-old settlement” (Nature 538, 5; 2016). And on a factual point, the University of Cambridge does not have a royal charter. Pope John XXII gave us formal recognition in 1318, and our privileges were confirmed by Parliament in 1571 through the Oxford and Cambridge Act.
A royal charter recognizes an institution or group of individuals as a single legal entity, each with different responsibilities and rights. It is an exaggeration and simplification of the bill's proposals to say that it will revoke these. Instead, the bill would legally recognize institutional autonomy, the principle of dual support and the sector's diversity.
Evidence-based debate will improve the proposed legislation, for example through the Green Paper consultation and the Public Bill Committee (see also go.nature.com/2ejk7km). Discussions will continue as part of standard parliamentary procedure. The bill does not need to be thrown out to protect academic freedom.