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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 “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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