Five predictions for the Future of Higher Education

Smita Jamdar

Yesterday I attended the Guardian’s Future of Higher Education Summit (http://www.guardian.co.uk/higher-education-network/blog/2012/mar/19/future-higher-education-summit-2012-live-blog?newsfeed=true).  From a very packed and wide-ranging schedule, here are some of the themes that were discussed:

  • The jaw-dropping moment for me was the news that Which? magazine is planning to branch out into guidance for prospective students on their choice of university. Although the magazine is at pains to stress that the intention is not to create a set of HEI “best buys”, but rather to provide information and advice from “sector specialists”, the entry of the consumer champion into higher education serves (even if only subconsciously) to reinforce the status of students as customers and the surely unwelcome view of higher education as a commodity to be bought and sold, with potentially very profound consequences for the student/university relationship.
  • There was predictably wide-spread concern that the global competitiveness and standing of UK higher education has been damaged by the tightening of visa rules. Although recently announced concessions to the otherwise stringent restrictions on post study work are to be welcomed, the international perception is that the UK does not welcome international students. Other countries such as China are creating an HE environment to attract students from overseas, and the UK risks losing out to these new entrants.
  • The future of research and enterprise was believed by panellists to lie in greater collaboration with industry given the decline in public funding. The role of universities as “anchor” institutions and agents for change in their regions will be increasingly important, given their ability to disseminate applied research and deliver a knowledge workforce. However, Government, industry and universities need to work together better to attract increased inward investment, and exploit the economic impact of innovations to create lasting wealth and jobs.
  • Graduate employability will continue to be a strong theme, with employers recognising the greater role they must play in engaging with universities to deliver the graduate workforce of the future. Universities too need to look at the skills that they are developing and testing in students. Assessments should reflect work activities such as presentations, team working and problem solving, rather than the more traditional essays.  There was a general consensus that universities should help individuals develop skills throughout their whole working lives, not just at the start.
  • The future HE landscape will contain even more institutional diversity, with the rise of private providers. The nature of what we regard as a university will change, as new entrants may offer a differentiated experience. However, this needs to happen in a properly regulated environment that ensures quality and guarantees disciplinary breadth.

Other memorable features of the day for me included being interviewed by the Voice of Russia radio station, and being described as a “star tweeter” by the Guardian. High praise indeed!

Smita Jamdar
Partner and Head of Education
For and on behalf of SGH Martineau LLP
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E: smita.jamdar@sghmartineau.com
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From → General Interest

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