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The government's announcement of a major review of the National Student Survey signals a worrying shift in the HE regulatory landscape, warns Jon Scott, higher education consultant and former Pro Vice-Chancellor (student experience) at the University of Leicester.
Statements from ministers this week have made it clear that higher education in England is facing significant reforms, re-setting its focus towards helping to plug the UK's skills gaps and rebuilding the economy. Fariba Soetan, Policy Lead for Research and Innovation at the National Centre for Universities and Business, argues that the proposed changes bring a welcome focus on graduate outcomes and supporting the careers of young people.
The University of Leicester is building on the worldwide success of its work on Richard III to launch four new research institutes that will tackle issues of global importance.
Multidisciplinary thinking and the incredible teamwork of the kind that led to the discovery and reinterment of Richard III is behind the University of Leicester’s pioneering research institutes in Precision Medicine, Space and Earth Observation Science, Structural and Chemical Biology, and Cultural and Media Economies.
The institutes are expected to deliver a step change in research breakthroughs as they set out to grapple with some of the biggest medical, scientific, economic and social questions around including many of those targeted by a £1.5 billion Global Challenge Research Fund set up by the government earlier this year.
The new institutes will bring together experts from a range of academic disciplines to focus on areas of study that will have a real impact on peoples’ lives, such as the development of medical treatments tailored for individual patients.
The brains behind the multi-million pound venture say this approach to conducting research is in step with the latest government policy and should be the norm for studies that must now demonstrate their impact on the world.
Professor Iain Gillespie, Leicester’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, said: “With Richard III we got it right, and it worked brilliantly well. But what we need to be able to do is provide an environment where that is the norm, rather than an exception.
“What we need to ensure is that we have the conditions that allow Richard III type projects to emerge, even when they are not pushed towards us but we are generating them ourselves.”
Professor Paul Monks, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Leicester, who is also working on the development of the institutes, confirmed: “We want Richard III to be the norm for the way we do things. It shows you how to deliver excellent research with impact.”
The professors said students at Leicester will also benefit from the institutes, as the research would inform teaching and expose students to the latest cutting edge advances affecting a wide range of disciplines. Other institutes are already in the pipeline and could be announced as a second tranche next year.
Professor Paul Boyle, Leicester’s President and Vice-Chancellor, said the development was part of a new “discovery-led” approach to higher education affecting both research and teaching and bringing the two closer together.
He said: “Our commitment to discovery is all about imaginative new thinking, and these institutes will underpin fundamental advances in our understanding of the world around us. They are also intended to be focal points for global research conversations.
“The institutes will bring together colleagues from across the university to grapple with fundamental questions that arise at the intersection of different disciplines. This is all part of our commitment to pioneer a distinctive elite of research-intensive institutions.”
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