NMITE – prospects of a co-operative university in Hereford inconclusive…

With a week to go until the big announcement about a new university in Hereford, I’ve been digging around in the local press and elsewhere on the internet. I’ve had to, because the published info@nmite.org.uk address is bouncing all my attempts to sign up to the mailing list!

I am yet to find conclusive evidence that co-operative governance is being considered, explicitly. However, I have found evidence of further co-operative links, in the form of a theory that the Robert Owen Vocational School might be sharing a possible site with NMITE. The trail to this other organization ran cold* (Its website is giving me the 404 this evening) but from what I could glean it is a Free School, which has faced considerable local opposition. The school’s parent organization (the Robert Owen Group) does claim to be a co-operative: http://www.robertowen.org/about-us.html so there is some sort of (tenuous) co-operative connexion through the putative campus location.

The internet archive has some captures of the previous holding page for the university: http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.thenewuniversity-herefordshire.org.uk/* though these do not extend beyond the homepage. However, an archived discussion on the Herefordshire Voice forum did reveal some interesting information (http://www.herefordvoice.co.uk/topic/1170-the-new-university-herefordshire/) including that the project:

‘is being conceived as a not-for-profit institution, with mixed funding, and operating with input from The John Lewis Partnership model. The assets and endowments of the university will be held in trust by The Herefordshire Tertiary Education Trust.’

It also offers a link to a 2009 Herefordshire Council debate in Cabinet which gives background to these aspirations and also to the likely site in the city centre: http://councillors.herefordshire.gov.uk/ieIssueDetails.aspx?IId=17475&PlanId=0&Opt=3#AI16820 which does seem to be the same as the Robert Owen Free School.

The Herefordshire Tertiary Education Trust (http://www.hte-t.org/) appears to be the legal vehicle used to get the project to its current stage, which is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee (as indeed are many co-operatives). (Due to the somewhat antiquated web technology Companies House uses, you have to go there and search for company no. 08799922 yourself.)

And finally, according to the High Sheriff of Herefordshire, it is a Good Thing.

So tantalizing, inconclusive, but as yet, no cigar.

Roll-on 1pm Friday 6th March 2015, when all will be revealed…

* Update 15 mins after posting “D’Oh! – If The Rober Owen Vocational School is in fact a school it will have a UKPRN. It does. 10042334. Edubase says this about it: http://www.education.gov.uk/edubase/establishment/summary.xhtml?urn=139895 It has 30 pupils and is indeed based on the Blackfriars site mentioned above.

PS The BBC did a news item about the New University last year: http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hereford-worcester-26987031

Hereford University – new model co-operative university?

An article appeared in the Times Higher Education this week, about proposals for a new university in Hereford. George Osborne has been tweeting about it and the University of Bristol is apparently involved in the project, as is Sir John Hood. From a co-operative university-watcher’s viewpoint, the most exciting part of the announcement was that the university “is being conceived as a not-for-profit institution, with mixed funding, and operating with input from The John Lewis Partnership model” (Morgan, 2015).

Could we be witnessing the birth of the first mutual Higher Education Institution in England? Possibly. While the John Lewis Partnership model stretches the definition of an employee-owned firm somewhat (being a non-revocable trust for the benefit of staff) if you do consider it to be a version of the co-operative business model (I do) then it is one of the UK’s most prominent examples. Boden, Ciancanelli and Wright (2012) explicitly consider that the John Lewis model ‘offers promise for university reform’ (Boden et al, 2012, p.20). ‘Drawing on this model …’ Boden et al. (2012, p. 21) ‘… propose reform of university ownership via the creation of Trust Universities’. While I have doubts about any mutual model of the university that does not explicitly consider students as members, there is no doubting the attractiveness of Trust Universities as a reassertion of academic governance of academic institutions. The involvement of the John Lewis Partnership makes this prospect a tantalizing possibility.

There are not many details available about the putative university, which styles itself the ‘new model institute for technology and engineering. Its website remains enigmatically silent, but the countdown at the bottom of the page indicates all will be revealed in two weeks time…

Logo from the new Hereford University website - codenamed NMITE
Watch this space for the new Hereford University – codenamed NMITE


Boden, R., Ciancanelli, P., & Wright, S. (2012). Trust Universities? Governance for Post-Capitalist Futures. Journal of Co-operative Studies, 45(2), 16–24.
Morgan, J. (2015, February 14). Former Oxford v-c “senior adviser” to new Hereford university. Times Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/former-oxford-v-c-senior-adviser-to-new-hereford-university/2018542.article
NMITE. (2015, February 18). New Model Institute. Retrieved February 17, 2015, from http://www.nmite.org.uk/
Osborne, G. (2015, February 10). On #education will support development of major new uni in Hereford. Asked Greg Clark to examine how to do this, working with @BristolUni [microblog]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/George_Osborne/status/565815416724131840