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HEi-know Weekly HE News Review: Diversity matters

Mike Ratcliffe, Academic Registrar at Nottingham Trent University, reviews HE sector news in a week when T levels, educational “snobbery”, Oxbridge admissions, and a new universities minister made the headlines.

MPs urge the government to break down barriers to nursing degree apprenticeships

Nursing degree apprenticeships as a successful and sustainable route into the profession will forever be a mirage unless barriers to delivery are torn down, MPs have warned.

UUK roundtable to consider flagging students' mental health problems to parents

Universities UK is bringing together university leaders, mental health experts, and students and parents to consider when a nominated family member or another appropriately identified person might be contacted if a student is suffering with poor mental health or in acute distress.

Graduate earnings probed, unconditional offers questioned, a business levy proposed, and a minister resigned … another news-packed week in HE

Professor Mark Smith, Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University, and Nicola Owen, Lancaster’s Chief Administrative Officer and Secretary, kick off a new series of HEi-know weekly higher education news reviews, highlighting and commenting on some of the most significant and interesting HE stories and opinions of the past week.

UUK calls for government and universities to prepare for “no deal” Brexit

In the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, the Government must unilaterally secure EU citizens rights and strengthen its pledge to underwrite UK participation in EU research programmes, according to new guidance from Universities UK.

Town and gown united can reach out to the world, study finds

Town and gown is working together in Amsterdam. Image: tykhyi / 123RF

The “ivory tower” is a tired label that fails to capture the complex and deep relationship between universities and the cities where they are based, according to a British Council study.

Universities can work effectively with cities to build on their mutual strengths and identities and reach out to the world through a strategic internationalism, an analysis of four medium sized European cities has concluded.  But effective internationalisation is not inevitable and needs work to find and nurture the areas where collaboration can be most effective.

Although cities can learn much from one another, models for collaboration should be developed locally by university and city leaders rather than imported from “best practice”, says a report on the findings, Mutual influence: Universities, cities and the future of internationalisation, launched at the British Council's Going Global conference. The make-up of institutions and priorities will differ markedly from one city to another.

Each of the four cities featured in the report – Amsterdam, Hannover, Dublin and Glasgow - has built a model of working together with universities that is tailored to the nature of the place and environment in which they are based.  Though they differ, there are certain factors that have helped progress, such as a dedicated member of staff in the city office to coordinate relations with universities or an informal network of key figures to co-ordinate activity.

Cities should recognise the diverse characters and strengths of their universities, while universities should work together to co-ordinate conversations with City Hall rather than working in isolation, the report suggests.   Where there is little or no existing mechanism for university-city collaboration, the British Council may wish to convene an initial meeting and play and active role in promoting links, it says.

The process could start with shared interests, such as marketing to promote the city as an attractive place to live and campaigns to build on its national and international reputation.  Successful collaborations can also focus on “infrastructure bottlenecks” such as housing which is a common theme in the four cities surveyed.  Other initiatives include transport, joint trade delegations, attracting inward investment, branding of place and study destinations, and working together to improve marginalised pockets of the area or the joint running of integration programmes for visitors and refugees.

However, the report stresses that internationalism is fragile and cities can find themselves at the mercy of visa regimes and pressures on public finances.

“The positive collaborations outlined in this report are replicable in cities all over the world but they are just as easily swept away by destructive forces,” it says. In particular, globalisation is vulnerable in the face of populism and the rise of nationalism and isolationism at the expense of openness and free movement.

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