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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.

“Chronic” shortage of women on university governing bodies, says HEFCE

Universities need to increase the proportion of women on their governing bodies, according to the funding body’s newly published equality and diversity statement and objectives.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) document lays out what action it will take in 2016-17 to promote diversity and equality both internally and across the sector.

It confirms HEFCE's approach “to guide, encourage and test” that universities are complying with their legal duties to promote equality, rather than set targets for institutions.

The exception is the objective to address the “chronic” under-representation of women on university governing bodies. HEFCE has already set a target of 40 per cent for the proportion of women on governing bodies by 2020. It also wants greater ethnic diversity on boards and will investigate ways of enhancing the equality monitoring of governing bodies.

The document signals HEFCE's intention to “re-focus the Student Opportunity allocation” to give more funding to institutions with higher proportions of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and to deliver a geographically-targeted national programme of collaborative outreach from 2016-17 to 2019-20.

The move is aimed at helping to meet the Government’s pledge to double the proportion of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education by 2020, compared with 2009; to increase the number of BME students in higher education by 20 per cent by 2020; and to improve the participation of white working class men.

HEFCE said that the trend is towards greater diversity, with more female and black and minority ethnic (BME) professors than ever before, more diversity in researchers and an increasing number of disadvantaged students entering higher education - but more can be done.

A slow pace of change means large disparities and inequalities remain in many areas, it said.

“If the proportion of female professors continues to increase at the same rate as it has over the past 10 years, it will take another 40 years for women to reach parity with men,” the document says. “The proportion of female vice-chancellors and principals is stuck at 19 per cent, the same figure for the past three years. On average, 16 per cent more white undergraduate students achieve first or 2:1 degrees than their BME counterparts.”

HEFCE will continue to convene the Diversity Summit partnership to identify further action. It will also support research into the role of executive search firms in recruiting to senior university positions.

Partnerships with the corporate world, to share good practice and identify solutions, are also encouraged.

 

morfeo86ts / 123RF
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