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  • The future of university rankings

    The future of university rankings

    By Phil Baty – Let us be frank. University rankings are crude. They simply cannot capture – let alone accurately measure – many of the things that matter most in higher education: how a great lecturer can transform the lives of their students for example, or how much free enquiry enhances our society. They can never be objective, because their indicators and methodologies are based on the subjective judgment of the compilers. At their worst, university rankings can impose uniformity […]

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  • Innovation in higher education

    Innovation in higher education

    By Geoff Mulgan and Mary Abdo – For universities around the world these are both exhilarating and troubling times. Enrolment in tertiary education has risen beyond any expectations, to some 150m[1] worldwide. A truly global industry has taken shape – with new technology enabling rapid collaboration and dissemination of ideas, and students increasingly matriculating at foreign institutions. Yet there is also disquiet. Much important knowledge creation takes place outside of higher education. Few institutions are rich or self-sustaining, and many […]

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  • British universities past, present and future: convergence and divergence

    British universities past, present and future: convergence and divergence

    By Robert Anderson – Among the twenty universities in the research-intensive Russell Group, only one (Warwick) is less than 100 years old (http://www.russellgroup.ac.uk). Clearly history still matters. British universities were of diverse origins and types, formed by layers of historical development, but converged over time towards a single model.[1] Uniformity was at its height in the ‘Robbins era’ from the 1960s to the 1980s, but since then tensions have grown within an ostensibly unified system. Should this fragmentation be deplored, […]

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  • Why contradiction is (and always will be) higher education’s great strength

    Why contradiction is (and always will be) higher education’s great strength

    By Martin Hughes – Higher education is full of contradiction. Contradiction conjures up images of uncertainty. And that makes me hopeful for the future. Universities thrive on exploration and multiple perspectives. Every institution is rife with healthy argument. The pursuit of learning often conflicts with the pursuit of a better career. In short, one person’s potion is another’s poison. No single purpose for HE can be defined. Yet this is precisely why I am optimistic. Far from a lack of […]

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  • What should higher education be for?

    What should higher education be for?

    By Charles Seaford, Laura Stoll and Louis Coiffait – In the foreword of his recent report on UK higher education funding, Lord Browne wrote that: “the return to graduates for studying will be on average around 400%”.   In this world view higher education is an economic investment, and there is and should be pressure to take a high paying job. Indeed it would be inefficient for graduates to take lower paid jobs: the market, as manifest in salary scales, […]

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  • A Five-Point Plan for the future of higher education

    A Five-Point Plan for the future of higher education

    By James Ladyman – The culture of higher education has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Changes introduced to increase accountability and improve the quality of both teaching and research have had unintended consequences. The drive for procedures and processes, where once there were simply judgments and decisions, may have raised some standards and eliminated some shoddy or even corrupt practice. However, the elevation of the mechanisms to ensure the correct use of academic expertise, to the status of […]

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  • Striving for excellence in a new world

    Striving for excellence in a new world

    By Sir Alan Langlands – I welcome this invitation to do some ‘blue skies’ thinking about higher education, for two reasons.  First, if we are to believe some commentators, the dominant weather pattern for higher education in England is decidedly overcast and unsettled, with thunderclouds looming as we head towards the new funding system in 2012-13. Without underestimating the considerable challenges that lie ahead, my own forecast is for a sunnier outlook; universities change lives and they will remain a […]

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