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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.

EU support for British universities is irreplaceable, says UUK President

The UK’s university sector will face an uncertain future if the country votes to leave the European Union in the forthcoming referendum, Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow has warned.

The president of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kent says in a new paper that it would be a “dangerous game” to assume that the country’s universities could still access  European funds from outside of the EU.

In an article for the All-Party Parliamentary University Group, Professor Dame Julia makes the university case for backing the “in” campaign, while the Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin argues that UK universities would be better off outside.

The papers were commissioned by the Group after a meeting concluded that  it would be useful to set out a remain and a leave argument in the form of short essays in order to help inform the debate.

In her essay, Professor Dame Julia says UK universities do better than almost all other member states in terms of EU research funding, but the main reason for staying in the EU is collaboration rather than cash and that by working closely with their European neighbours, UK universities can benefit research, the economy and society as a whole. 

“The reason that EU support is so unique, and irreplaceable at national level, is that it is collaborative,” she said.

“It brings together top minds from across Europe and beyond to tackle global challenges which require global solutions.”

Professor Dame Julia said universities agreed “a Brexit would mean cutting ourselves out of the established networks and unique support that the EU provides, and risks undermining our status as a world-leader in science and the arts”.

Bernard Jenkin, who chairs the Commons’ Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, believes a Brexit would mean “our brilliant universities will grow all the stronger” by “embracing the world”.

He points out that four UK universities are in the top 10 of the QS World University Rankings - and more are in the top 50 - while just two from the rest of the EU are in the top 50.

“The receipt of EU funding makes universities keen clients of the EU,” he said, but it was “fear-mongering” for vice chancellors to suggest universities would lose grants if the UK left the EU, because non-EU universities did receive EU funds.

“It is the UK knowledge base of our universities that makes the UK so attractive for EU research funds,” he said.

But Professor Dame Julia said: “We have no idea whether, and on what terms, the UK could negotiate access to EU research programmes outside the EU”.

Continued participation in EU programmes would require approval from all 27 remaining member states and this was unlikely, “given that the UK currently wins about 10% of EU research funding”.

Mr Jenkin said the UK government would continue to invest in research and would have extra funds for this if it were not paying “some £20 billion per year to the EU budget”.

Collaboration would not stop, he said, and the only likely change might be to the Erasmus exchange programme. Even then, because so many wanted to come to the UK on that scheme, it was likely an arrangement would be made.

 

 

Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow
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