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Behind the HE headlines is one key question – the purpose of universities

The past week’s higher education news demonstrates that there are certain expectations of universities that policymakers, HE leaders and the Augar review are expected to address, says Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of the Engineering Professors’ Council and Chief Executive of outreach organisation Push .

30 VCs sign new Civic University Agreement

Leaders of thirty universities have signed a Civic University Agreement, reaffirming their institution's commitment to their local communities by pledging to put the economy and quality of life in their home towns and cities at the top of their list of priorities.

How to improve the student experience -- ask the students themselves

Jenny Shaw , Student Experience Director at Unite Students, draws lessons on the higher education sector's efforts to improve the student experience from a week of HE news and views.

HEi-think: Why universities should support two year degrees

From this September, students will be able to opt to study an accelerated two year degree, as opposed to a traditional three year course. Professor Malcolm Todd, Provost (Academic) at the University of Derby, discusses why universities should consider the change in legislation and look to offer accelerated degrees.

121 professors call for an end to micro-management of university staff

An open letter calling for an end to the “managerial micro-management” of higher education forcing academics to function as a “small business” has been signed by 121 university professors.

The letter, published by the Guardian, says forces of “marketisation” are leading institutions to turn to “out-dated” models of competitiveness and efficiency that subjects academics to “continuous pressures to standardise, conform, obey and duplicate in order to be ‘transparent’ to measurement”.

It says “highly paid” university managers and even more highly paid management consultants are driving the process, “with little regard for, or understanding of, the teaching and research process in higher education”.

Unprecedented levels of anxiety and stress among both academics and academic-related staff and students abound, it warns, with “obedient” students demanding “hoop-jumping, box ticking and bean counting” and managerial surveys measuring consumer satisfaction.

“Such are the low ambitions of today’s universities, locked into a conservative status quo mentality; for what is there left to learn, when you already know it in order to demand it?” it adds.

The letter, signed by some leading figures across a wide spectrum of institutions, calls upon parliament’s newly election education committee to conduct an urgent investigation into “these grave matters”.

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