Universities UK

Universities UK is an advocacy organisation for universities in the United Kingdom. It began life as the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of the Universities of the United Kingdom (CVCP) in the nineteenth century when there were informal meetings involving vice-chancellors of a number of universities and principals of university colleges. The current president is Julia Buckingham CBE.[1] The current Chief Executive is Alistair Jarvis, who took up this role in August 2017.[2] Now a registered charity, the organisation has an annual income of £11.6 million.[3]

Universities UK
HeadquartersLondon, WC1
United Kingdom
136 universities, university colleges and colleges of higher education
Julia Buckingham


In 1918 the first consultative meeting of all vice-chancellors was held. At that time, the committee consisted of just twenty-two universities and university colleges. In 1930, under the chairmanship of Sir Charles Grant Robertson, vice-chancellors secured a mandate from their respective universities that "it is desirable in the common interests of the United Kingdom to constitute a Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals for purposes of mutual consultation".

In the early 1960s, working parties set up by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals were responsible for the creation of the Universities Central Council on Admissions (UCCA).

In the early 1980s, they commissioned the Jarratt report, published in 1985, and which framed universities as businesses delivering a product to student-consumers.

Over the succeeding years the number of universities increased as a result of new universities being created and the change in legislation in 1992, which recognised the former polytechnics as universities thus doubling and diversifying the membership.

On 1 December 2000, CVCP’s name, logo and identity were changed to Universities UK in order to reflect changes which had taken place in the organisation in recent years.[4]


Universities UK's task is to support the work of universities and promote their interests. It works to deliver its mission by speaking out for a thriving and diverse higher education sector which creates benefits for all; providing and disseminating essential information; bringing people together to share knowledge and good practice.

There is also an additional group, Universities Scotland, whose membership comprises the Universities UK members in Scotland. Universities Scotland promotes and supports the work of Universities UK.[5]

Admissions and social mobility

The "Access for All"[6] report UK Universities published support work to widening access by promoting fair access and developing an evidence to help them to learn from each other, and through sharing good practice. The percentage of state educated school students at the prestigious Russell Group universities has been falling. State educated secondary school pupils eligible for free school meals are very much less likely to go to Oxbridge than privately educated pupils. Overall more young people are entering university than previously and it is hoped this will improve social mobility.[7] Cutbacks in government funding for students may deter poorer potential students from going to university according to the education charity, Sutton Trust.[8]

Advice regarding segregation

In November 2013, Universities UK published the document "External speakers in higher education institutions"[9] which provoked controversy because it suggested that audiences might be segregated by sex to satisfy the demands of ultra-orthodox religious speakers. The guidelines follow the principle that segregation is permissible if the Equality Act 2010 is followed and equal priority is given to all groups, in a manner similar to the former "separate but equal" doctrine in United States constitutional law that justified racial segregation until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Following comments by Prime Minister David Cameron that universities should not enforce gender segregation on audiences the case study which triggered this debate was withdrawn.[10][11]

Efficiency and effectiveness

The "Efficiency and effectiveness in higher education:"[12] A report by the Universities UK Efficiency and Modernisation Task Group chaired by Ian Diamond launch in 2011. In response to the report the "Efficiency Exchange"[13] was set up to help higher education institutions to share ideas and good practice. The Exchange facilitates the sharing of resources.


Universities UK health work programme addresses the NHS education reforms; research and innovation and AHSNs; healthcare employment and health education regulation. In 2012 "A picture of health and education"[14] was published which depicts the vital connections between higher education and healthcare.

EU referendum

In July 2015 UUK launched a campaign in support of the UK's continuing membership of the EU which generated wide media coverage.[15] This was criticised by some Conservative and UKIP Members of the European Parliament who said that such political activity undertaken by a registered charity which is largely state-funded was wrong.[16]


In spring 2018, the transparency of Universities UK was widely called into question due to its role in negotiations over changes to the USS pension scheme, which led to the 2018 UK higher education strike. By 12 April 2018, 12,000 people had signed a petition demanding that UUK be made subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.[17]

During the 2018 UK higher education strike many elements of Universities UK were subject to strong critique. Bill Cooke, a lecturer at York Management School, submitted a complaint to the Charity Commission in relation to the governance of Universities UK, arguing that: “UUK is lead adversary against tens of thousands of university lecturers and professional support staff. Yet its mission and Memorandum of Association claims that its purpose is to represent and speak for them and their interests, as member of universities.”[18] There were also criticisms of the miscommunications or misleading comments evident in various documents issued by Universities UK and its partner organisation Employers Pensions Forum,[19] as well as analyses of the complex relationship that Universities UK has had with consultancy organisations.[20]

See also


  1. "Who we are". www.universitiesuk.ac.uk. Retrieved 2019-08-21.
  2. Universities UK Alistair Jarvis appointed Chief Executive of Universities UK 7 August 2017
  3. Jack Grove, 'The USS strike and the winter of academics’ discontent', Times Higher Education (12 April 2018).
  4. BBC News University chiefs shed 'grey' image 1 December 2000
  5. Links Archived 2010-02-12 at the Wayback Machine. Universities Scotland (2013-07-01). Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
  6. Universities UK Universities UK publishes Access for All, 8 July 2013
  7. BBC (London) January 2015 Social mobility and university entry: Is access fair?
  8. BBC (London) 30 July 2015 Higher debts may deter poor students from university, says report
  9. Universities UK Universities UK publishes guidance on external speakers in higher education, 22 November 2013
  10. Universities UK Response to Downing St. comments on gender segregation, 13 December 2013
  11. BBC University segregation row: Ministers call for clarity, 14 December 2013
  12. Universities UK Efficiency and effectiveness in higher education, 15 September 2011
  13. Universities UK Efficiency Exchange'
  14. Universities UK A picture of health and education, 5 July 2012
  15. https://storify.com/UniversitiesUK/universities-for-europe-campaign-launch
  16. Kelly, Éanna. "UK universities launch campaign to stay in EU ahead of Brexit vote". Science Business. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  17. Jack Grove, 'The USS strike and the winter of academics’ discontent', Times Higher Education (12 April 2018).
  18. 'https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/concerns-raised-with-commission-about-governance-of-universities-uk.html#sthash.Kr4I3NfK.dpuf'.
  19. https://medium.com/ussbriefs/misleading-communication-case-studies-from-universities-uk-and-the-employers-pension-forum-88bd87234a03
  20. https://medium.com/ussbriefs/the-role-of-consultancies-in-the-uss-dispute-e080f640d7d6
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