Amazing things happen when you connect the unconnected

Having just come back from the Global Universities Summit I have been thinking about what I heard and what I learnt. The theme of the Summit was universities and economic growth but I was struck by how much of what was discussed could be summarised in this quote from one of the lunchtime speakers, Phil Smith CEO of Cisco Systems:
“amazing things happen when you connect the unconnected”.
So, connecting better or connecting more lay at the heart of much of what universities could do to help stimulate economic growth.
There is their role as talent magnets, drawing together bright, creative people who together will be more likely to innovate and generate the ideas that give us new paths to growth and opportunity. To do this they need to be able to attract the best from wherever they are in the world, which is why there was much discussion of immigration policy and the barriers it can pose to the free movement of staff and students.
There is the ongoing problem of how best to connect universities, businesses and graduates so that each delivers what the others need to thrive in the challenging times that prevail. So there were commitments to increasing mentoring and work placements and to delivering employable graduates with access to lifelong learning to refresh the skills they will need, in an environment where business needs constantly evolve and jobs are constantly re-engineered.
There is the question of how to connect individuals and businesses across the world with the research and innovations created within universities: how do you facilitate global access, and how should you manage the intellectual property in the things that are shared?
There are the benefits of connecting universities so that they work together to solve cross-border problems like food safety and sustainability, and so that they develop and deliver TNE built on mutually strong and beneficial relationships.
There is also the unique power to connect that flows simply from being a university, as Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz pointed out, from being autonomous, independent and thus to be trusted with the big challenges society faces.
And then there is technology, the means to achieve connectivity on a wider, faster, grander scale than we’ve ever seen it before. That’s where Phil Smith’s quote came in. But it is only a means to an end, the very ends that universities and colleges are so uniquely qualified to deliver. So I hope (but sadly doubt) that the G8 will pay particular attention to the issue that they should invest more in universities, give them the time and space to connect the unconnected and then see what they can do to promote economic recovery. 

Smita Jamdar
Partner and Head of Education
For and on behalf of SGH Martineau LLP
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From → General Interest

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