1st Edition

Influencing Higher Education Policy A Professional Guide to Making an Impact

Edited By Ant Bagshaw, Debbie McVitty Copyright 2020
    200 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    200 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Drawing together a team of expert contributors from across the sector to offer contemporary descriptions and critical reflection of practice in higher education, Influencing Higher Education Policy uncovers the nature of policymaking and interpretation. With a suite of authors whose experiences range from governmental to academic, this book shares insights from professionals working in the field of higher education policy to provide useful, practical, and implementable information.

    Placing focus on professional aspects, and with practical examples bringing to light experiences, insights, and recommendations across policy and public affairs, this book is divided into three sections. It covers concepts and theories for policy influence, regulation and the role of government, and institutions’ engagement with policy. Furthermore, it considers:

    • what it means to work in policy and public affairs in higher education;
    • the increased complexity and fluidity of higher education politics;
    • regulatory reforms in higher education;
    • the position of the student in policy discourses.

    Offering a contemporary representation, Influencing Higher Education Policy is an indispensable guide for all those who work in higher education, particularly those who work in communications, strategy, planning, and leadership roles.


    Contributor viographies


    Part 1 Concepts and theories for policy influence

    1. Power and influence in higher education policymaking: who controls the debate?
    2. Debbie McVitty

    3. Preparing for politics with a capital P
    4. Josie Cluer and Sean Byrne

    5. Evidence and policy: theoretical approaches for higher education policymaking
    6. Anna Bradshaw and Megan Dunn

    7. Working with think-tanks
    8. Diana Beech

    9. International organisations in higher education policymaking: the role of the OECD
    10. Claire Randerson

    11. Contesting student identities: making sense of students’ positioning in higher education policy
    12. Adam Wright and Rille Raaper

      Part 2 Regulation and the role of government

    13. Higher education policymaking from the government’s perspective
    14. Iain Mansfield

    15. Lessons from the legislative process: how representative groups shape government policy and legislation
    16. William Hammonds and Chris Hale

    17. Delivering Diamond: a policy development case study of student funding in Wales
    18. Dewi Knight

    19. Performance measurement and student information in the UK: adapting to a diverging policy context between Scotland and England
    20. Cathy Mitchell

      Part 3 Institutions’ engagement with policy

    21. A study in imperfection: five lessons on how to influence with impact
    22. Colette Fletcher

    23. Punching above your weight: establishing a policy and public affairs function in a modern university
    24. Jessica Strenk

    25. The influence of universities in a civic context
    26. Selena Bolingbroke and Tess Winther

    27. Influencing policy is core business for universities

    Ant Bagshaw


    Ant Bagshaw is a management consultant at Nous Group working across its Australian and UK education practices. Prior to joining Nous he was Deputy CEO at Wonkhe. He has also worked as a policy and projects officer for senior management teams at the London School of Economics and University of Kent, and in a policy development role at University College London.

    Debbie McVitty is Editor of Wonkhe. Debbie is a former Chief of Staff at Universities UK, policy director at the University of Bedfordshire and the National Union of Students, and a founding member of Wonkhe’s editorial group.

    This important practical guide to policymaking in UK higher education brings together the perspectives of a range of actors and commentators on how the policy process has been transformed in the last few years. Bagshaw and McVitty are to be commended for plugging a gap in the literature, between policy comment and academic analysis. They, and their contributors, intelligently explore the messy, complex and contingent nature of policymaking and the politics that surround it, in engaging and refreshing ways. If you’re interested in actually shaping policy and influencing the politics surrounding higher education – in the UK or elsewhere – this book is for you.

    Professor William Locke, University of Melbourne, Australia

    Today English universities find themselves working in an evolving regulatory framework that can feel like some form of natural experiment. So there is a clear need for a book such as this which sheds light on the thinking and priorities of policymakers, and all those who help them to shape their concepts of higher education. The combination of theory and practice in this analysis of past initiatives and possible future directions for the sector therefore provides invaluable insights for all those working in policy roles in the sector today.

    Dr Helen Carasso, Department of Education, University of Oxford, UK

    Becoming or remaining a successful HEI in today’s dynamic and volatile operating environment depends on anticipation and strategic positioning. This can’t be done without a considered and systematic approach to intelligence gathering, institutional research, data analysis and policy-influencing, as this edited volume clearly demonstrates. The book gathers ideas and case-studies from expert practitioners to show why policy and public affairs related activities have become so necessary in the UK and how to do them well at individual and institutional levels. The aim of the book – to contribute to the growing professionalisation of these activities and to put them at the heart of institutional strategy – is a valuable and timely call to arms.

    Robin Middlehurst, Professor Emeritus of Higher Education, Kingston University London, UK


    Policy wonkery in UK higher education has come into its own. With this book, it now has its own professional guide. Essays span the key zones of policy work, from the local and institutional through to the governmental and supranational. Contributors write with authority and experience, as insiders-outsiders and as hybrid professionals, some with careers that began in student politics. The issues are live, the examples instructive and the insights are many. Conceptual questions, academic debates and practical approaches criss-cross the chapters. Impacts are judged but not without consideration of the trade-offs involved. This is a text for everyone with an interest in the play of power and policy in contemporary higher education.

    Emeritus Professor Gareth Parry, University of Sheffield, UK