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March 22, 2013

The Future of Universities

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What’s next for universities? With the sector diversifying into online learning, not to mention the many varied opportunities offered by further and higher education colleges, it’s become harder to say what a university will look like in the future. In March 2013, leading academics and experts, organisations, and international student leaders at Warwick Universities Summit 2013 tackled the issue of universities in 2025. Speakers from across the sector discussed topics such as funding and widening access, and what the value of the global public university should be in a rapidly developing world.

This month, leading academics and experts, organisations, and international student leaders at Warwick Universities Summit 2013 tackled the issue of universities in 2025. Speakers from across the sector discussed topics such as funding and widening access, and what the value of the global public university should be in a rapidly developing world. Here, Alex Bols is interviewed by Alex Miles from the University of Warwick.

alexbols.jpgThree Questions for...
Alex Bols, Director of the 1994 Group

Alex Miles: My first question is in relation to the article written by Peter Scott last week [in which he said] mission groups are a divisive presence in the sector. To what extent do you think students identify mission groups as brands?

Alex Bols: One of the things that I spoke about at the Warwick Universities Summit is the increasing diversification of higher education - both in terms of provision and providers. Forty years ago when six per cent of the population went to a handful of universities it was relatively easy to say we know what a university is and what its purpose is. Now there are 167 universities, several hundred other institutions – including many private providers and further education colleges - offering higher education, as well as the recent wave of new universities – it is getting increasingly difficult to have a single answer to that question. In particular for those applying to university it is much harder to know what the experience will be like and so the provision of information becomes ever more important.

I think in this context missions groups can be a useful descriptor for different parts of the Higher Education sector. So it can help it to be more understandable to prospective students. Now, in terms of prospective students, the challenge is that most people don’t know most of the mission groups – so it doesn’t really work in that way yet – but it could in the future. Mission groups are also useful in policy making terms. With such a diverse sector it is important to have groups thinking about the unintended consequences of policy on different parts of the sector and how it all fits together.

AM: A recent report by McKinsey posits that in five years’ time there will be a deficit of 40 million graduate high-level jobs. How does this reconcile with a current perception of the depression in graduate jobs in the Western World, and how does the 1994 Group think it will address this future surge in demand?

AB: There are so many issues there, wrapped up in that one question. I think one aspect of that is clearly the concern around having the higher-level skills beyond simply the undergraduate level. And one of the things that the 1994 Group has been campaigning on particularly in the last year/18 months, is actually ensuring that postgraduate taught systems are more accessible to the full diversity of the student population, and particularly, looking as this year, the first students [who] will be paying £9,000 for undergraduate fees, will, within 18 months’ time, be thinking about which Masters they’re studying and we potentially have a ticking time-bomb on the horizon. That’s one aspect.

The second aspect, in terms of graduate jobs more generally, I suppose, is that it feels as though there is a real need for high-skill jobs in the economy. There are probably more low-skilled jobs, more manual jobs, but there’s been almost a hollowing-out of the mid-level skill jobs so it feels like there’s almost an hourglass effect. So actually it’s sometimes very easy to [say] “Oh there’s not enough graduate employment” – I think that’s mainly reflective of the economic situation that we’re in, that fact that graduates are still significantly more employable than people who don’t have high education qualifications. And actually if you look at the economy over the last ten years, the vast majority of new jobs being created are actually in graduate-type jobs.

AM: Finally, if you could ask the G8 to do one thing - make one commitment - bearing in mind that this year’s summit is focusing on free trade, what would that one thing be?

AB: I think, for me, the key question, in the clichéd term, is the “grand challenges”. There are a number of massive issues that affect the world as a whole - climate change, food and water security - a whole range of issues which cannot be solved by any one university, any one country. What I think we should be looking at, at the G8 level (and probably G20 and indeed, beyond) is how are we able to ensure that collaboration to tackle the major issues affecting the world for the next 50 years? How are they able to facilitate that investment in research, the collaboration across our best universities and across countries? How are we able to ensure that that investment in research will mean we are going to be able to tackle key questions – the key challenges of the future?

This blog is part of a regular series on the Knowledge Centre looking at issues in higher education ahead of the Global University Summit (May 28-30 2013), hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London. As part of the GUS, a declaration of commitment and policy recommendations will be drawn up for the G8 summit of world leaders, taking place in Northern Ireland in June.

January 24, 2013

Winter Graduation: Everybody's Free (to wear hats and gloves)

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Suit up Graduates at the University of Warwick
Suit up: BSc students graduating in 2008.

Graduation is as much about reflection as it is a point to embark upon your chosen career. My start to university life, in 1999, happened in a fairly good year:

  • The first new Star Wars film in 16 years had just been released
  • the Millennium (not Falcon) celebrations were only a few months away (and we really did party like it was 1999)
  • and Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’ had recently done well on the ‘hit parade’.

The song, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is a spoken word essay, by the film director, to the "ladies and gentlemen of the Class of '99.” It would be a few years before I graduated but some of Luhrmann’s advice has stuck with me to this day, especially his words on sunscreen.

I’m not a Warwick alumnus but I’ve several friends who graduated from the University of Warwick so I asked them (and alumni on LinkedIn) what knowledge, like Baz, they would like to impart on the ‘ladies and gentleman of the Class of 2013’. Here’s what they had to say:

Luda Begley née Anestiadi, writer and freelance translator, San Antonio, Texas. Luda completed a master's degree in Creative Writing with distinction, Warwick Writing Programme (2008-2009).

“Once you leave our dear bubble, don't lose that spirit, motivation and enthusiasm you began your studies with. Always remember why you came to Warwick in the first place and follow that goal. And once the ceremony is over, go give a hearty hug to your tutors; trust me, the more time passes after you graduate, the more you realise how much they deserved it!”

Richard Casey, Director, Chapter 1 Executive Recruitment. Richard studied Chemistry (1983 – 1986).

“My advice would be for those candidates heading into industry (non-academia) to get a good grounding with a big organisation first. You can easily head out to a smaller firm later in life but it's very difficult to head the other way. Also, unless you are absolutely passionate about it, think carefully about the rush for investment banking: the salaries are normalising somewhat and those who work there regard it as less fun than it was even ten years ago.”

Jonathan Goggs, Alumni Engagement Intern at the University of Warwick. Jonathan graduated with a First Class BA (Hons) in Politics with International Studies (2012).

“In this job market, I'm reminded of that classic quote from the Simpsons to sum up graduation: “Freedom! Horrible, horrible freedom!

“My advice to those following non-conventional career paths would be brand yourself, find your specialism, and work your way towards making yourself indispensable at your organisation. And don't be dispirited!”

Andrew Steel, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Veritas Traducción y Comunicación, S.L. MBA, DipTransIoLET, BA (Hons), MCIL, MITI. Madrid Area, Spain. Andrew graduated with a BA (Hons) in Film and literature (1990-1993).

“Become a master of principles, not policy. Act on principles, not policy. Live by principles, not policy.” (Quoting author Jeffrey Gitomer).

Ian Cotgias, ESG and Other Risk Capital Manager at Friends Life Group. Ian studied MORSE: Mathematics, Operations Research, Statistics and Economics (1988 – 1991).

“Listen and learn from your colleagues in whatever path you choose to follow. Also, be proactive and take responsibility for [yourself]. I say this because graduates can be distinguished by those that expect everything to be done to them without input from themselves (i.e. training, communication, promotion) - they are often the least happy in their jobs. Then there are those that arrange to have coffee with senior members of the organisation and work to understand what's going on, where they can fit in and this allows them to build a picture of what they want to do. You'll be surprised how approachable seemingly unapproachable colleagues can be and how much of a leg up that can give you.”

Good luck to you all, wherever you choose to go and whatever you choose to do…and trust Baz on the sunscreen.

January 21, 2013

Winter Graduation: our honorary graduates

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University of Warwick Chancellor Sir Richard Lambert and Honorary Graduate Pascal Lamy Graduation 2009

Chancellor Sir Richard Lambert and Honorary Graduate Pascal Lamy, Graduation 2009

More than 165,000 students have graduated from the University of Warwick since it took its first cohort of 450 undergraduates in October 1965. Alongside the students graduating this week (at the Winter 2013 Degree Congregation), there will also be four honorary graduates. We will be interviewing them for the Knowledge Centre, with audio, images and text appearing online soon.

The honorary graduates receiving awards at the Winter 2013 degree ceremony are:

  • Earl Cameron CBE will receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt). Cameron, who was born in Bermuda, now lives in Kenilworth. His acting career stretches over more than 60 years with film credits for, amongst others, Inception (2010), The Queen (2006) and Thunderball (1965). His television appearances include Doctor Who, Jackanory and Lovejoy. Cameron was awarded a CBE in 2009 for his services to drama.
  • Dame Fiona Reynolds will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science (DSc). Dame Fiona was Director-General of the National Trust until November 2012 and is a Non-executive Director of the BBC. She was awarded the CBE for services to the environment and conservation in 1998 and was appointed a DBE in 2008. From September 2013 she will be Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. She is also a non-executive director of Wessex Water.
  • Caterer, broadcaster and writer Prue Leith will receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt). Leith, who is one of the three judges on The Great British Menu, established the Leiths School of Food and Wine in 1975 and sold the school, which teaches amateur and professional chefs, in the 1990s. Her first novel was published in 2005 and she has since published four others, as well as an autobiography and several cook books.
  • Sir David Chipperfield will receive an Honorary Doctor of Science (DSc). After graduating from Kingston School of Art and the Architectural Association in London, Sir David worked at the practices of Douglas Stephen, Richard Rogers and Norman Foster. He established David Chipperfield Architects in 1984. His practice was awarded the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2007 for the Museum of Modern Literature in Marbach am Neckar, Germany. The Practice also created the Turner Contemporary in Margate and The Hepworth Wakefield.

July 16, 2012

Summer 2012's honorary graduates

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graduating studentsIt’s summer graduation time again. This week Warwick final year students are congregating in the Art Centre’s Butterworth Hall to receive their degree certificates and celebrate their achievements with friends and family. Graduating alongside them with honorary degrees will be 13 men and women who are distinguished in their chosen careers.

The University awards honorary degrees twice a year to individuals who have made a significant contribution in their field. Whether known for art or acting, physics or photography, or engineering or education, these graduates are awarded honorary degrees for their service to the University or community.

Who decides who Warwick awards honorary degrees to? It’s the University’s Honorary Degrees Committee’s job to debate nominations on behalf of the University Senate. All members of the Council, the Senate and heads of academic and administrative departments are invited once each year to submit names for the committee’s consideration. The council then invites approved individuals on behalf of the Senate to receive an honorary degree. The nominated person receives either an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws, Doctor of Letters and Doctor of Science; an honorary degree of Master of Arts and Master of Science; or the Chancellor’s Medal, an award for an exceptional contribution to the University’s work and development.

The Knowledge Centre will be featuring interviews with this year’s cohort of honorary graduates to find out how they made it in their professions and what advice they have for this year’s graduates. Children’s literature and film aficionados will recognise David Bradley, a celebrated character actor best known more recently for his role of Hogwarts’ caretaker Argus Filch in the Harry Potter series. Theatre-goers will know David Edgar, a political playwright more recent works Albert Speer (2000) and Playing with Fire (2005), both of which premiered at the Royal National Theatre. Both Davids will receive an honorary DLitt.

Football fans may remember the footwork of 1970s Liverpool player Steve Heighway. He began his football career in non-league football whilst completing his economics degree at Warwick. Heighway left Anfield in 1981 after 475 matches and 76 goals, before returning in 1989 to run their youth academy. He will receive an honorary MA.

Warwick 1976 maths graduate Sir Bob Kerslake went on from being President of the Students Union to a career in local and national government. In 2012 he became Head of the Civil Service. And Dr Alan Reece brought more than £400 million worth of business to the north-east of England as founder of Pearson Engineering Limited (PEL). Dr Reece is keen to promote engineering education in the UK and is a supporter of the Smallpeice Trust, a Leamington Spa-based charity dedicated to increasing awareness of careers in engineering among 10 to 18 year olds. He is adding an honorary DSc to his list of qualifications.

See the honorary graduates press release for a full list of honorary graduates and their awards. There’s a full list of honorary graduates on the alumni website. Listen to interviews with summer 2011’s honorary graduates on the Knowledge Centre.

Interviews with this year’s honorary graduates will be published on the Knowledge Centre soon. Watch this space!

Penelope Jenkins, Online Writer

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