The Wilberforce Society | Papers
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Writers: Nadia Abdul, Cormac Devlin, Maya de Silva Wijeyeratne, Nikhil Dwivedi, Kai Johns, Mark O’Brien, João Pedro Borges Santos

Editor: Nikhil Dwivedi

The National Health Service (NHS) is neither sustainable nor effective in its current form. The advent of the ageing population and along with it, the prevalence of multiple, long-term, complex health conditions, has meant that the NHS no longer serves the same population it was originally designed for. The NHS must reconfigure itself to effectively serve this new demographic; but it must do so against the backdrop of the lingering effects of both the economic crash and weak, ineffective recent reform.

This paper looks to the healthcare successes and innovations of other countries’ for answers. Structurally, there should be greater decentralisation of the NHS to allow local authorities to best tackle the health problems facing their particular populations, whilst avoiding the bureaucracy they currently face. Fiscally, this paper finds that the recent drive towards cuts in spending to the NHS in order to relieve the deficit will not allow resolution of service or sustainability issues in the NHS. Decentralisation, along with a change in policy emphasis from short-term deficit control to long-term planning of care methods, will allow the NHS to fund services in a sustainable and effective way

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Writers: Max Gibson, Stacy Young, Thomas Carlile, Matija Franklin

Editors: Jun Pang

The urgency of planning and implementing sustainable environmental practices cannot be understated. Most recently, world leaders spoke of the pressing need to deal with climate change at COP21, with many heralding the talks as a sign that the international community was finally moving from the realm of words to that of action. However, problems continue to abound as governments grapple with the imperative of ensuring their countries’ growth and development versus that of implementing environmental policies – there remains difficulty in bridging the gap between policy and reality.

This paper aims to discern the different benefits of local versus top-down methods of common-pool resource (CPR) management, in the context of resource scarcity in the world today. Contrasting these two ideal types, it identifies existing local and top-down solutions to the management of the common-pool resources of land, energy, and fisheries, and evaluates a variety of relevant historical and current case studies for their successes and failures.


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Writers: Jun Pang and Vidya Ramesh

Editors: Laura Grunberg and Chia Jeng Yang

Commissioned by: End Rape on Campus UK

Sexual violence is endemic to university campuses and other institutions of higher education. While preliminary engagement with the issue has begun on the part of the education sector and the government in the United States, there remains no comprehensive set of mechanisms for dealing with sexual violence across universities and other institutions of higher education in the United Kingdom.

The University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford are compelling examples of the difficulties of instituting simultaneously vertical and lateral processes of disciplinary action and awareness-raising when it comes to issues surrounding rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and consent, due to their collegiate system. This paper explores the answer to the seemingly straightforward question, “Does the University of Cambridge have a policy for cases of sexual harassment and assault?”, and hopes to highlight the importance of instituting comprehensive mechanisms for dealing with the issue of sexual violence in universities. It recommends that institutions of higher education pursue a two-pronged approach to instituting policy: preventative measures (raising awareness of the importance of consent) should function in tandem with disciplinary measures (mechanisms for dealing with alleged perpetrators of sexual violence) in order to best uphold student welfare.

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‘Wilberforce Watch’ is a new series, where we interview the Executive Committee, Editors and authors of The Wilberforce Society to give you a greater insight into the interesting work they do.

This week, we caught up with Alicia Loh, one of TWS’s Deputy Directors of Policy, who first joined the Society as an Editor. Here are some of the questions we put to her and her answers.

Alicia Loh

When did you first become involved with TWS and in what ways have you been involved since?

I joined TWS as an Editor in November 2015, and took on a paper on facilitating innovation in India. I am now Deputy Director of Policy, and am currently taking care of four papers.

What have you enjoyed/beneftted from most through your involvement with TWS?

Being a part of TWS has been an incredible experience, from the work and research itself, to the people that I have gotten to know through the society. I have learned much, not just about the specific topics I have worked on, but also about policy-making. It has made me realise that even as students, we need to be engaged in current issues as we have the power to effect change, and we bring new, innovative ideas to the table.

What words of advice would you give to students who are considering joining TWS in whatever capacity but fear they don’t know enough about it or that they don’t have the relevant skills/expertise?

There are opportunities at every level to participate in TWS activities. You could join as a writer or editor if you are keen in learning more about a particular issue, and the amount of responsibility you take on depends on how much you want to put in. There are also plenty of events you can take part in, including conferences, policy presentations, and socials.

Following the presentation of the paper, Innovations in Developing Countries: The Startup Ecosystem in India by a team of dedicated writers at The Wilberforce Society, which included a talk by Dr Jaideep Prahbu, Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business & Enterprise at the Judge Business School, the writers were invited to take part in Innovate for India, a conference organised by India Global, a UK based think-tank.

The conference lasted two days from the 13th – 14th of May 2016 and attracted venture capitalists, angel investors and notable academics from the UK and India. Among the audience, was also present the Innovation Society, Government of Andhra Pradesh, one of the first of India’s 29 states to come up with an innovation policy to embrace the startup culture in India. It was an important and timely event given the boom in early-stage companies in India and the policy paper was highly commended for its fresh outlook on the issue. To refresh your memory, here is a link to our previous blogpost. The highly anticipated paper is due to publish in September 2016 as the team is currently working on the feedback it received from its presentations and the academics present at the Innovate for India conference.

'Innovate for India' conference poster

The Wilberforce Society is a non-partisan, student-run think-tank based in the UK. It seeks to promote constructive and intelligent debate both within and without the University of Cambridge, offering undergraduates and graduates alike the opportunity to become involved with policy conception and analysis with the possibility of creating profound and genuine impact. The Society follows an independent policy agenda set by the Executive Committee but also carries out commissions for external organisations, which in the past has included both Houses of the British Parliament.

The Society is always keen to hear from students about their suggestions for policy papers and gives them the opportunity to contribute in the initial stages as well as later on, as authors and editors. The impactful nature of TWS’s work can be seen from the positive reception they received from the Government of Andhra Pradesh, with the CEO of the Innovation Ministry of Andhra Pradesh offering the policy paper team internships in their government.


By Haroun Mahmud

On 22 April 2016, The Wilberforce Society met in Keynes Hall, King’s College Cambridge and held a policy paper presentation about ‘The Startup Ecosystem in India’. The paper presentation was the culmination of the research and writing undertaken by a group of Cambridge students. The authors of the paper are: Sarah Wong, Pranjal Bajaj, Charlotte Grace, Vanya Kumar, Viva Avasthi and Ruby Stewart-Liberty, with Alicia Loh as editor.

The paper provides policy suggestions to the incumbent Government of India, which has taken a pro-startup stance and evaluates the effectiveness of some of its current policies.

The team invited Dr Jaideep Prahbu, Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business & Enterprise, to give a speech on his views on the paper. His comments are summarised below.

At the start, Dr Prahbu congratulated the team on a very well-researched and informative paper. He commended in particular the accuracy of the ideas presented within it, noting that a few weeks ago during a trip to India he met entrepreneurs whose sentiments he felt were reflected in this paper.

He noted that in India much potential continues to be unrealised. The ecosystem seems to hold Indian people back.Innovation in Developing Countries - Startups in India

As a university student at IIT Delhi in the late Eighties, many of his peers were intent on leaving the country, to seek opportunities abroad which they felt were lacking at home. But since the Eighties and Nineties, young people are still leaving India but – rather than intending on starting a life abroad – they wish to gain skills and return back home. This has been called ‘brain gain’ or ‘brain circulation’.

Entrepreneurship in India continues to be elitist; investors, with some but not complete justification, target people from certain institutions such as IIT.

There is some progress to diversify investment. Kerala recently opened its first Fab lab, a small-scale workshop offering personal digital fabrication, an idea which originated from America’s MIT.

Eluding to Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre’s 1975 non-fiction book, Dr Prabhu suggested that Indians need more ‘Freedoms at Midnight’. Bureaucracy can be incredibly stifling to startup, not least the tax system. India collects tax through the TDS (Tax Deducted at Source) method and getting a rebate can be an incredible hassle. Bureaucrats, although committed and intelligent, are very risk-averse, making them a hindrance to business and innovation. With politicians breathing down their necks and the press operating in a sensationalist fashion, one can perhaps excuse them, but not without realising that a change is needed.

Dr Prahbu pointed out that is far better to work in a decentralised way, working with states rather than through central government. Narenda Modi, the current Prime Minister of India, made good use of this decentralised method as a Chief Minister of one such state, Gujarat, but is finding less success deploying similar tactics for the whole country in central government. This is because national politics is much more consensual, requiring the agreement of many scores of people, unlike the more streamlined state-level governance.

The paper’s findings

The research paper outlined some of the factors hindering entrepreneurship, classifying them into four main categories, nominally: a) culture and education; b) funding; c) tax and regulation hurdles and d) is there even a market?

Unsurprisingly, with a country as vast and therefore as varied as India, there is considerable disparity between the different regions. In some regions for example, the lower castes suffer from a lack of good network connections. Students from outside the IITs (India’s Ivy League-style elite university institutions) find difficulty to access funding, due to a bias among investors to favour the latter. The preoccupation with rote learning curtails the potential for innovation and new ways of thinking so crucial to entrepreneurship.

India’s cultural, regulatory and economic environment combine to induce a lack of investor confidence. There is an overly fragmented and complex tax structure, with dissimilarities in regulations across regions and sectors.

What is India doing?

Despite the obstacles outlined above, India is making strides to enhance and encourage entrepreneurial activity. For example, there are seven new research parks as well as 35 new incubators. To circumvent the restrictive tax regimes of old, tax exemptions have been offered to startups for the first three years as well as an eighty percent rebate on patent applications filed by startups.

Policy recommendations

The paper’s policy recommendations are wide-ranging, focusing on how the government can help startups from the very beginning of their ventures throughout the process.

They can be categorised in four main ways: firstly, through securing support for startups; secondly, giving them the support they need to work with confidence; thirdly, minimising the red-tape and finally, widening opportunities to those typically left out.

The government can use state media to provide leverage to the existing programmes and initiatives as well as encouraging and legislating for firms to sponsor the most promising young entrepreneurs from local universities (not the IITs) as part of their corporate social responsibility mandate.

Providing startups with support can also be done by encouraging early stage funding through regulation as well as straightening investor protection.

The simplification and consolidation of both the tax and procurement systems will remove the hesitance which many currently feel.

The paper suggests the adoption of the ethos ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ [together with all, development for all], which was in fact a key poll slogan for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Entrepreneurship and innovation can be integrated into India’s wider development agenda of inclusive growth through an affirmative action-based approach, by catering to the marginalised sections of society.

Writers: Sophie Ashford, Daniel Gayne, Connor MacDonald, Joshua Watts

This paper discusses the challenges associated with data use in both political and commercial contexts. In particular, we discuss how organizations and corporations (particularly political parties and telecommunications firms), have used data in recent controversies and elections. In addition, we consider the legal regimes governing data arrangements and usage in a number of jurisdictions, notably Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. In particular, we note that legal regimes have not kept pace with data usage, particularly in the political sphere. In some cases, notably Australia, this takes the form of under-regulation. In other cases, including both Canada and the United Kingdom, this involves improper regulation or regulation not fit for the purposes of electioneering, with the result that political parties are unnecessarily impeded while electors are not properly protected. In terms of commercial settings, the paper highlights that current regulation disempowers consumers and provides companies with ample opportunity for abuse. In Part 1, the paper details policy proposals to improve political data usage regulations. In part 2, policy proposals are put forward to empower consumers and protect privacy, with a particular emphasis on privacy agreements and customer-corporate relations.



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Lead Writers: Zoe Adams, Francois Vanherck

Writers: Shani Wijetilaka, Maximilian Campbell, Joshua Richman, Jack LeGresley

Editor: Umang Khandelwal

The House of Lords is suffering from an identity crisis. This is as much due to short sighted reform efforts as it is to issues of legitimacy. Reform needs to be seen as a priority, conceived as part of a normative vision of the role that the House of Lords could, and should play in the context of the modern British constitution. It is time to recognise that the House of Lords can make a meaningful contribution to our democracy, and defend it against the widespread criticism to which it is subject today.

This paper has sought to highlight the importance of the scrutinizing function the House of Lords performs. It has sought to demonstrate that the question of expertise cannot be separated from the nature of its composition. Before other issues can even begin to be addressed, the House needs to demonstrate it represents a diverse cross-section of society. By focusing on the central issue of composition, the proposed reforms should help to convince the public of the important contribution that the House of Lords can make to the quality of our democracy today.


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Writers: Tom Ellis, Walter Myer, Eddie Reynolds, Kartik Upadhyay

Editor: Walter Myer

Formatted by: Brendan Tan

This paper outlines a strategy to improve upon formal and informal recognition of qualifications held by refugees entering the UK. It begins with an overview of UK NARIC, the national body responsible for producing equivalence qualifications. This is followed by discussion of the problem of refugees who lack physical evidence of their qualifications upon arrival. We then turn to the problem of language acquisition, before finally considering official channels of support for refugees as they use their equivalence qualifications to seek employment.

In our conclusion, we produce a series of proposals directed towards NARIC and other organisations. These include the introduction of an assessment-based qualification recognition process; a model integrating employment with language learning; and the supplementation of NARIC’s role through government-supported initiatives for job-seeking refugees across a range of areas.

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