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The Policy Work of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education in the United Kingdom (the Dearing Committee, 1996-97)

Birch, Rhiannon (2017) The Policy Work of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education in the United Kingdom (the Dearing Committee, 1996-97). PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Appointed with bi-partisan support in the context of a funding crisis, the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (the Dearing Inquiry) was asked to make recommendations to a new UK Government in the summer of 1997. Employed to tackle complex, difficult and controversial questions, national committees have been a favoured policy instrument in the British tradition. They represent an independent, expert, consultative and deliberative policy process. The thesis is a study of the policy work undertaken by the Dearing Inquiry. Policy work is the totality of people, methods, activities and processes deployed by a national committee to meet its terms of reference and the expectations of ministers and politicians. Based on a systematic analysis of archival documents, an account is given of how the Inquiry approached its work, how evidence was collected and weighed, how expertise was used, and where, when and how these sources informed the National Committee. The main argument of the thesis is that, while external commentary focused on specific issues, the larger purpose of the Inquiry was to equip higher education with the architecture for a post-binary mass phase of development and that in completing its work the Committee undertook a process of codification. The findings highlight three key features. First, the Inquiry demonstrates common features of the National Inquiry form of policy-making, being organised using a hierarchy of groups which developed collective views informed by evidence. Second, the Inquiry demonstrates the adaptability of national inquiries. The Committee supplemented existing data and reports with commissioned research, including a significant national consultation exercise, and sought stakeholder views to inform recommendations. Third, the effectiveness of a national inquiry depends on participating actors. A small group within the Committee provided direction and momentum while the Chair and Secretariat provided coherence, ensuring that the Inquiry met its reporting deadline.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of Education (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.733603
Depositing User: Mrs Rhiannon Birch
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2018 09:06
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:51
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/19280

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