The coalition government very much sees localism as a major conduit for delivering economic growth in England. This shift in policy thinking broadly endorses Michael Heseltine’s bold calls for decentralisation in his 2012 Review, and places local growth as a central policy pillar for achieving sustainable growth. It also presents real opportunities for universities – who are often regarded as ‘anchor institutions’ in their local area.
The architecture for delivering this growth is a set of 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs): business-led bodies spread across England. LEPs vary greatly in size and resources, but nevertheless the rewards for universities successfully engaging with their local LEP are significant. Universities can strengthen their ties with local businesses and communities, and help boost economic growth. Furthermore, each LEP has recently submitted a strategy on how to spend over five billion pounds allocated to England by the European Union.
So how well are universities engaging with local enterprise partnerships? Continue reading
Policy makers are famously fond of analogies. Universities have been likened to both ‘anchors’ (in the 2012 Wilson Review) and ‘arrows’ (in the recent Witty Review). At first these appear quite opposed to each other – one imagines an imposing building drawing all who surround it into its influence, or a lithe institution soaring into space. But the two reviews make the same point about universities and business – that both are stronger when they work together, and the benefits are wide reaching when they do.
To demonstrate, let’s take an imaginary university – The University of X – who, among other things, is a leader in technology Y. A nearby small business (Business Z) is growing fast, but growing much further will require testing some new materials using technology Y. Continue reading
I have just come back from Hong Kong, where I attended an event forming part of the British Council’s Global Education Dialogues. Over two days we discussed and debated the nature of inclusive leadership, in the company of Michael Arthur (Provost at UCL), Louise Morley (Professor of Education at the University of Sussex), Professor Dawn Freshwater (Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Leeds), Professor Joseph Sung (Vice-Chancellor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong), and many others from UK and East Asian universities.
Inclusive leadership is an elusive concept. At the conference, it was presented as an approach to leadership that harnesses different points of view to a shared common purpose. The conference also focused on the diversity of leaders, particularly in terms of gender and race, and we discussed the lack of diversity in senior positions in higher education. Continue reading
International student numbers were debated on BBC Question Time last night, with the panel quoting a number of conflicting figures – what’s actually happening?
Last month’s student record published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) for academic year 2012–13 showed that, for the second consecutive year, the number of non-EU students entering the first year of their course declined. Although these enrolments are by no means falling off a cliff, it does suggest that the UK is losing out to certain competitor countries within a growing global market for international education.
Non-EU first year enrolments (HESA)
I was very pleased to be invited by Arts Council England last week to give a conference speech on a subject that has been creeping up the agenda over the last few years –collaborations between universities and arts institutions.
From the higher education perspective, the arts are not marginal. They are core business. In 2012-13, there were 366,420 undergraduate students registered on arts, humanities and performing arts courses, representing 22.6% of the total. Of these, 48,100 were from the performing arts. The figures for post-graduates are 67,490 (7,830 performing arts). Last year we also welcomed 41,035 international students onto arts courses. Research funding currently stands at over £41 million from the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and £184 million from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). These are significant numbers. Continue reading
The government’s grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) this week stressed the importance of institutions demonstrating value for money. It also announced that I’ve been asked to take forward further work to examine and promote efficiency in higher education. This new phase will build on the comprehensive programme of work we have already developed on operational efficiency in higher education and expand the scope.
Our work to date on efficiency and effectiveness in higher education has shown that the sector has a very good story to tell, but isn’t always very good at telling it. We therefore have a great opportunity with this new phase of the work to rise to this challenge and ensure we are seen to be doing everything we can to demonstrate value for money to students and the public. Continue reading
The government this year set a new record for lateness with the grant letter – 10 February surpassed the previous milestone of 23 January. Some may also think they have set a new record for obscurity in laying out the cuts to the higher education budget, so difficult is it to penetrate the numbers in the letter. While any cuts to higher education funding are bad news, the settlement for 2014-15 in particular could have been a lot worse, so it’s probably better to have the letter late with fewer cuts, than early and empty. Continue reading
Reports suggest that tonight’s Panorama programme will expose alleged fraudulent activity by a private company operating in colleges. This company is shown to have been allegedly falsifying language tests and bank statements to help visa applicants meet tough requirements to stay in the UK.
While we don’t know the details, if this is true it is very serious. Though we understand that universities are not implicated in the fraud revealed by the Panorama programme, the reality is that the reputation of the UK education sector as a whole relies on robustness on immigration rules from all quarters. The government has a job to do to ensure that the student visa route works efficiently across the board, instils public confidence and that all education providers have the same attitude as universities to fulfilling their duties as sponsors.
Universities take their duties as visa sponsors extremely seriously and invest significant sums in this area – a recent study found that in 2012/13 alone universities spent £67 million on immigration compliance measures. We have worked increasingly closely with the Home Office to improve compliance with immigration requirements, clarifying and improving guidance and audit systems, and providing training for university staff. We have also worked together to deliver a programme for the Home Office’s Higher Education Assurance Team to familiarise them with the higher education sector.
Abuse of the student route is exceptionally low in universities. Nonetheless, we cannot afford to be complacent. We want to work with the Home Office to eliminate all abuse and maintain our sector’s strong record. This is a priority for Universities UK because universities now have to take a wide range of steps to ensure that students offered places at university are genuine, that they attend courses and progress academically, and leave at the end of their studies.
Genuine international students should be welcomed to the UK – they make huge contributions academically, culturally and financially. Notwithstanding the Panorama revelations, we must continue to make sure that our message about genuine international students being welcome in this country continues to be heard loud and clear.
Last month the Government of Canada announced our country’s first national international education strategy. I was privileged to speak at the launch ceremony alongside leaders from the public and private sectors. It was a great occasion, with many diverse organisations celebrating a long sought-after shared purpose and set of objectives.
The strategy opens with these words from the Hon. Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade:
International education is critical to Canada’s success. In a highly competitive, knowledge-based global economy, ideas and innovation go hand in hand with job creation and economic growth. In short, international education is at the very heart of our current and future prosperity. Continue reading
Public engagement is one of the best kept secrets in higher education – which is slightly ironic, given that engagement seeks to bring those inside and outside of higher education together for mutual benefit! That few people know of this work suggests there is still some work to do to raise its profile, and to ensure it provides opportunities to all, not just those in the know.
Although often criticised as ivory towers whose research has little direct relevance to society, universities are actually engaged in a multitude of ways with society. A 2009 study into knowledge exchange activities surveyed 22,000 academics. It discovered that public engagement was thriving, with academics involved in a host of relationships with businesses, social enterprises, community based organisations, cultural organisations and the public.
Universities Week 2014 will shine a spotlight on this engagement and encourage people to get involved with their local university. In addition more than 100 researchers will have the opportunity to showcase their engagement work at the Natural History Museum in London.
Engagement covers a wide portfolio of activities with different purposes and different audiences (we offer some examples below to whet your appetite). In addition, engagement animates different disciplines, drawing on different traditions and knowledge. The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement offers resources and support for anyone thinking about engagement and to celebrate Universities Week we have launched a competition to find the most innovative high-quality engagement with research projects across the UK. Continue reading