Argument, evidence and continuity in the Augar report

18th November 2019 : 17:00 - 18:30

Category: Public Seminar

Research Group: Higher Education

Speaker: Gareth Parry, University of Sheffield

Location: Department of Education, Seminar Room A

Convener: Helen Carasso

About the series


The Department of Education’s Public Seminar Series are held on a termly basis throughout the academic year and are designed to engage wider audiences in topical research areas from across the department. Seminars are free to attend and held on most Mondays during term from 5pm. Each seminar is convened by a member of the department and speakers include academics from across the department, the wider University, as well as internationally recognised professionals from across the globe.

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Seminar abstract


The use of expert panels to advise governments is a favoured form of policy inquiry process. In higher education, especially in the UK, they have replaced committees of inquiry in the tradition of Robbins and Dearing. In further education, there were no such independent inquiries in the first place. Although sitting inside a government-led review and observing its no-go areas, the six-person panel chaired by Philip Augar (which reported in May) was the first, at least in England, to have a remit for the whole of tertiary education. In assessing the system of higher and further education in England, and making recommendations about how it might be strengthened, the panel needed to assemble and generate evidence on a wide front.
The scope of the task was worthy of a larger and longer inquiry. The result was a report short on policy history and lesson-drawing but with data and analysis marshalled in support of its core contentions. Most of its recommendations were financial and regulatory. None were structural. The present architecture of tertiary education was deemed fit for purpose. Here also was an inquiry process aligned to existing government policy for a two-type system of academic and technical education. That policy was the creation of another government-convened panel (chaired by David Sainsbury). Two of its members subsequently served on the Augar team. Such features, it will be argued, are of the nature of expert panels. The work they accomplish should be judged accordingly.


About the speaker


Gareth Parry is a scholar and researcher on system change and policy reform in higher and tertiary education. At the University of Sheffield, he was Director of the Centre for the Study of Higher Education and a partner in the ESRC Centre for Global Higher Education. He has been a research consultant to the Dearing inquiry into higher education (1996-97) and the Foster review of further education colleges (2004-05).