Press coverage

Find coverage in the press of Reform's latest work below. 

We are always happy to comment on policy issues relevant to our work. If you would like a quote, an interview, or a background briefing, please email or ring 020 7799 6699 for the quickest response.  

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Universities set to ‘spectacularly’ miss 2025 access targets, warns think tank

New figures published today by the Higher Education Statistics Authority show a 0.1 percentage point improvement in access to university for students from low participation neighbourhoods in England.

Commenting, Reform Education Researcher, Imogen Farhan, said: 

“This rate of improvement means that the sector is set to spectacularly miss their ambitious target to halve the gap in access between the least and most advantaged students, by 2025.

“Although their intentions are laudable, more radical reform is required. Universities must disclose how they spend their widening participation budgets to allow for evaluation and commit to admissions which consider a student’s background.

“If the Prime Minister really wants to ‘level up’ Britain, improving access to university for disadvantaged students is crucial and he should move to enact these reforms.”

Conservative Home, 11 February 2020

Claudia Martinez, Research Manager and Health lead at Reform, wrote an article for Conservative Home, outlining the importance of investing in and improving the primary care estate.

It accompanies our report, 'A primary care estate fit for the future'.  

Read here.

Brexit drives 20% rise in government spending on big consultancies

Dr Josh Pritchard, Senior Researcher at Reform, was quoted in The Financial Times, arguing for greater transparency in government contracting.

Read here

‘Horrendous’ prison safety statistics show system requiring urgent stabilising, says think tank

Commenting on the Ministry of Justice’s quarterly prison safety update showing record levels of self-harm, alongside a small decline in the numbers of assaults, Reform think tank criminal justice lead, Aidan Shilson-Thomas, said:

“The 16% rise in self-harm among prisoners shines a light on the horrendous conditions across the prison estate and highlights the need for urgent reform to stabilise the system.

“The Government must tackle the current exodus of experienced prison officers, stem the soaring levels of substance abuse, and fix the crumbling estate by tackling the £900 million maintenance backlog.

“This will help create a more stable environment where inmates can build positive relationships with staff and engage in meaningful activities, such as education – something which is currently next to impossible.”

OfS plan to close access gap is welcome but key concerns remain, warns think tank

Commenting on the Office for Students’ (OfS) pledge to reduce “equality gaps” within five years, Reform Education lead, Imogen Farhan, said: 

“The intention behind this pledge is welcome and more active monitoring of universities’ performance by the regulator will make a difference.

“But whether the OfS’ proposals are radical enough to reverse universities terrible track record on widening participation is questionable. Just 12 per cent of students came from low participation neighbourhoods in 2018/19 – the same proportion as in 2014/15.

“These plans will not force universities to publish in depth analysis of how widening participation budgets are spent, making detailed evaluation of value for money impossible. The OfS will also primarily use neighbourhood-level data to measure its success, which ignores key indicators of disadvantage such as a free school meal status.

“Unless these issues are addressed, the OfS may struggle to achieve its ambitious objective.”

Covered in The Financial Times and FE News. 

Welcome X-ray scanners will ‘get the ball rolling’ but aren’t a silver bullet for prison security, says think tank

Welcoming an announcement from the Prisons and Probation Minister that 16 prisons will receive x-ray scanners, Aidan Shilson-Thomas, Reform Criminal Justice Lead, said:

“This is a welcome announcement which will get the ball rolling on stabilising the system.

“The decision to start with local prisons, which are usually easier to smuggle drugs and contraband into, is a good one. However, the MoJ must ensure that the prisons have the resources to staff these new measures.

“For drug use, tackling the supply is only half the battle. Inspectorate surveys reveal that the proportion of prisoners developing a drug problem behind bars is almost 15 per cent. The next step must be to help prisoners struggling with addiction, which in turn will reduce prison violence and reoffending.”

Covered by ITV News and The Yorkshire Post. 


Charlotte Pickles, Director of Reform, spoke to the Today Programme about the upcoming Cabinet reshuffle.

Listen here from 2:54.

Report Coverage: 'The prison system, Priorities for investment'

On Monday 20 January, Reform launched its report The prison system: Priorities for investment. It is a part of our Spending Review programme.

It was covered in The Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Telegraph, ITV News, Sky News, Metro the Yorkshire Evening Post and The Today Progamme.

Report author and Researcher Aidan Shilson-Thomas also appeared on Channel 4 News, Sky News, LBC radio and talkRadio to discuss the report findings. 

It’s right that the private investors carried the cost of Carillion but lessons must be learnt, says think tank

Welcoming the National Audit Office’s investigation into the rescue of Carillion’s PFI hospital contracts, Dr Joshua Pritchard, Reform procurement and outsourcing lead, said:

“Instead of the taxpayer forking up for the failures of badly-run companies like Carillion, Government has finally proven that it is capable of holding its suppliers to account when they don’t perform.

“However, costs were still allowed to spiral out of control, with an additional £687 million added to the total bill since the PFI contracts were signed – an increase of 98 per cent. This is yet another example of the consequences of poor government procurement.

“Outsourcing is essential for delivering public services, but only when it works well. Government needs to be a better customer, and industry needs to be a better client.”

Covered in The Times.