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Sandra Booth, Director of Policy and External Relations for the Council for Higher Education in Art & Design (CHEAD), reviews a week of higher education news in which concerns emerged over universities’ financial stability due to Covid-19 and the impact of the crisis on students.
A growing number of higher education conferences and events are being postponed or moved online in response to the Coronavirus restrictions.
Amid predictions that higher education will be changed forever by the current pandemic, Professor James Miller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Glasgow Caledonian University, suggests the innovative ways the sector is responding to the crisis will make it even more valued in the future.
The current crisis has underlined the critical role played by the UK’s experts and researchers and the institutions supporting them, as well as the need for collaboration between them, says Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business.
As a growing number of universities move teaching and assessment online in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Derby is holding a virtual conference which aims to support staff in making the transition.
The Office for Students is leaving it up to universities to decide on particular approaches to the Coronavirus pandemic rather than issuing specific guidance, and has promised to minimises its regulatory demands on the sector in response to the crisis.
A study has found substantial differences in degree attainment by students' religion or belief.
The University of Leicester has announced that former Universities and Science Minister David Willetts is to be installed as its new Chancellor.
Lord Willetts, who is an honorary graduate of the University and delivered the inaugural Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture, will succeed Lord Grocott as the University’s seventh Chancellor in July. He will serve as Chancellor Elect until his installation at the summer degree congregations.
The decision was announced following a meeting of the University Court. Welcoming the announcement, Dr Bridget Towle, Chair of the University Council, said:
“We welcome the appointment of Lord Willetts as the University’s new Chancellor. His knowledge of the sector and policy landscape is of vital importance.
“He is incredibly positive about the role that universities can play in our modern society and is a strong advocate for the sector. He also brings his strong political experience to the role.
“Lord Willetts has a deep interest in the science, research and innovation sector which will prove to be invaluable and he has a particular interest in the space industry and Leicester’s role in it. As Chancellor he will be an ambassador and advocate for Leicester’s world-class strengths in this and other areas.
“I would also like to pay special tribute to Lord Grocott who will step down as Chancellor in July. He has provided the University with dedicated service and we thank him for his unstinting efforts to champion Leicester and help raise its profile.”
President and Vice-Chancellor of the University Professor Paul Boyle added:
“We are delighted that David has accepted the role of Chancellor. He brings a wealth of experience in higher education, as well as public and political life, which will be enormously beneficial to the University.
“He has also been a supporter of the University- he opened a hi-tech space research facility in our Department of Physics and Astronomy in 2011, he has been full of praise for our discovery of Richard III and he delivered the first Distinguished Chancellor’s Lecture in 2015 on The Future of the UK Science Innovation System.
“David has a long history of supporting the UK science economy, with his distinguished Parliamentary career seeing him serving as first the Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills and then as part of the Coalition Government’s cabinet as minister for Universities and Science.
“In 2016, this University awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws for his distinguished record in Parliament, for his advocacy on behalf of Britain's universities, for his engagement with the university sector, and for his continuing work on behalf of all of us.
“It is therefore a source of immense pride that he has accepted the honour of becoming the University’s seventh Chancellor, joining a distinguished line of eminent personalities who have served in this role.”
Lord Willetts has praised Leicester University in the past for its work around the discovery of King Richard III, the discovery of genetic fingerprinting, and outstanding pace research.
Speaking of his appointment as Chancellor, he said:
“I am delighted and honoured to become the Chancellor of the University of Leicester. I remember my first visit years ago when I met the great Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys and was briefed on genetic fingerprinting. Since then I have visited a range of disciplines from the history of art to Leicester’s path-breaking work on space technologies. Throughout I have been impressed by the friendly atmosphere of the University and the purposeful approach of academic staff and students. I look forward to a close association with this marvellous University for years to come.”
Lord Willetts will visit the University on Thursday February 15 to celebrate the official launch of his latest book, A University Education. The University of Leicester and Oxford University Press have organised a panel debate with the author from 5pm-7pm on the University campus.
In A University Education, Lord Willetts presents a compelling case for the ongoing importance of the university, both as one of the great institutions of modern society and as a transformational experience for the individual.
To explore this topic in full, an expert panel comprising academics and leading figures from higher education will discuss the themes and implications of the book and the audience will be invited to present their own thoughts and questions on the subject.
The panel consists of:
(Chair) Professor Paul Boyle CBE, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of LeicesterThe Rt Hon. the Lord WillettsMary Curnock Cook OBE, Chief Executive UCAS (2010-2017)Professor Chris Husbands MA, PhD, PGCE, Vice-Chancellor, Sheffield Hallam UniversityNick Hillman, Director, Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) Members of the public are invited to the event and can book their place via: https://www2.le.ac.uk/institution/david-willetts
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