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Conceptions of what is excellent in higher education are starting to change

Professor Edward Peck, Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, outlines strategies adopted by NTU that are boosting social mobility and which helped it win the inaugural Guardian University of the Year award, a gong he believes shows how notions of excellence in HE are changing.

A house divided? Growing divisions and inequalities in HE

Mike Boxall, who has thirty years' experience as a consultant and commentator on strategic developments in higher and further education, finds evidence in recent news of growing and worrying divisions within UK higher education.

UK HE must put its house in order to maintain global excellence

News on higher education over the past week highlights an urgent need for the sector to get to grips with ethical issues that have a bearing on the way it is managed and governed, argues Sandra Booth, Director of Policy and External Relations at Council for Higher Education in Art and Design (CHEAD).

Rising staff costs putting universities under greater pressure, warns Moody's

UK universities will face greater financial pressure over the next three years due to rising staff costs as they accommodate more students, retain talent and negotiate pay rises,  Moody's has warned.

Higher vocational STEM education can lead to better earnings than degrees, study finds

Earnings of people achieving higher-level vocational qualifications in STEM subjects can exceed those of people who pursued the same subjects at a university level, a study has concluded.

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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