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May 28, 2013

We Have The Means To Change The World For The Better

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/knowledge/business/gus

Image. A sculpture commemorating the life of one of the scientists who discovered the double helix structure of DNA.
A blog post by Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz FRS, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge

Although any individual and organisation might change the world, universities are positively expected to do so. Through our teaching we change individual lives as a matter of routine; through our research, time after time, we change the way the world works.

Not only that, but we change it, consistently, for the better. 'To contribute to society' is not only part of a formal mission statement (of my university and many others), but it resonates in the daily activities of our staff and students.

Universities are rightly regarded as critical national assets. Governments the world over see them as vital sources of new knowledge and innovative thinking, as providers of skilled personnel and credible credentials, as critical friends and auditors of policies, as attractors of international talent and business investment, as agents of social justice and mobility, and as contributors to social and cultural vitality. We store knowledge and pass it from one generation to another, we are part of the civic establishment, and we are national and regional symbols. No other sort of organisation has such an astonishing remit, and no other sort of organization delivers such indispensable benefits to society.

How on earth to we manage all this? I offer three answers. Firstly, we integrate knowledge. Universities' disciplinary scope is, naturally enough, universal. Within the creative diversity of a university community, we can support scholars working across the disciplinary spectrum: those who work alone in libraries and with databases, deepening their, and our, understanding of a focused topic; and those who work in teams in laboratories and in the field. Their work would be of immense value on its own, but as integrative institutions we can also make connections between them, making the whole genuinely greater than the sum of the parts and marshalling expertise to address problems bigger than any single scholar's or research group’s capacity.

Secondly, we cleave to autonomy. The single greatest inhibitor of transformative excellence is excessive direction of ideas. We create autonomy within our institutions, and defend our institutional autonomy in wider society. The greatest biological discovery of the twentieth century was made in a physics laboratory: it is wholly imaginable that Crick and Watson’s collaboration might have been derailed by overzealous tidiness in internal structures and a line-management direction of research. (I am pleased that Cambridge is rarely accused of either!) Externally, we loudly and rightly assert our independence from governments and from other funders, including industry.

And thirdly, we are constantly relevant, both adapting to the society which we serve, and shaping it. Creating economic growth at home, and addressing poverty and hunger in developing countries, are among the pressing urgencies facing global society, and universities like mine are quick, and keen, to respond: we have both the capacity and the will to do so, in ways that are creative, productive, and surprising. The world does not look to its universities for predictable tweaks and short-term fixes, but for challenging, ground-breaking, world-bridging innovation.

It is a matter of fierce pride to all of us who work in universities that with astonishing frequency - though not regularity or predictability - we contribute ideas, technologies, and concepts that shatter preconceptions and change the world for the better.

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 Summit, 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.

Image: A sculpture commemorating the life of one of the scientists who discovered the double helix structure of DNA. As students at Cambridge, Francis Crick, who was born in Weston Favell, Northampton and American James Watson both unlocked the key of life in 1953. The scientists, along with Maurice Wilkins, were awarded a Nobel Prize in 1962 for their work on DNA. The steel sculpture called Discovery is installed in Abington Street, Northampton. Source: (Flickr)

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Image. Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz University of Cambridge. In 2010, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz became the 345th Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge having previously been Chief Executive of the UK's Medical Research Council from 2007 and Principal of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London. Professor Borysiewicz was knighted in the 2001 New Year's Honours List for his contribution to medical education and research into developing vaccines.





May 21, 2013

Fundamental Curiosity: The Dynamic Of The University

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/knowledge/business/gus

Image. Rodin

A Q and A with Professor Tim Jones, Pro Vice-Chancellor: Research (Science and Medicine), Knowledge Transfer and Business Engagement, University of Warwick.


What do you think is the most under-hyped, yet significant, change universities in the UK will undergo during the next decade?

I don’t know if it’s necessarily under-hyped but I think the private provision of higher education will completely change the dynamic in the future. I think a number of universities will be threatened very significantly. Private provision will expand and will change the way universities have to behave and operate in a very, very significant way.

And do you think global providers have an advantage?

Almost certainly yes, I mean the US is a classic example, and I think the UK is behind the curve with this certainly compared to some countries.

Open-access research: is the UK shooting itself in the foot or are we leading the way?

There is no doubt that open access research is a great thing in principle, however I think being first is not necessarily a good thing. So I would argue we are shooting ourselves in the foot because I don’t necessarily see the rest of the world following. I think the UK is going to be in a very difficult position.

The University of Warwick is hosting the 2013 Global University Summit in May, which will issue a formal declaration on higher education to the G8. If you could get one commitment from the summit of world leaders, what would that be?

It would be to ensure that universities remain establishments of academic research and scholarships and are no skewed too much by the agendas of governments around the world, where economic growth seems to be the raison d’être for the existence of universities. Don’t skew universities too much towards being engines of economic growth; don’t change the dynamic of the way the university operates. Don’t discriminate against intellectual, fundamental, curiosity driven education and research that continues to attract the very very best students and academics, who are free thinkers and are not constrained by government thinking and policy.

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 Summit, 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.

Image: Auguste Rodin's Le Penseur (The Thinker). Source: (Flickr).
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Image Professor Tim Jones, University of WarwickAs Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Knowledge Transfer and Business Engagement, Professor Tim Jones has responsibility for development of the University of Warwick’s knowledge transfer and business engagement strategy to support the University’s research and teaching ambitions through corporate level regional, national and international relationships with business partners. He also works with the Registrar and Chief Operating Officer to maximise the impact of the University HEIF allocations and lead engagements with relevant external bodies.He also has responsibility for the University’s Science research strategy, including the development of research opportunities and collaborations both nationally and internationally and the raising of research income, publications and citation scores in the Faculty of Science.


May 19, 2013

The International Race: The Forefront of International Higher Education

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/knowledge/business/gus

Image. 31st Annual Freihofer

A blog post by Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bristol

Higher education is an international enterprise. Our comparators, and our competitors, are found all over the world. At my own university, Bristol, we have staff and students from 112 countries. 30 per cent of our students and around 14 per cent of our staff are from outside the UK. We have partnerships in many countries around the world and each year we help about 500 students go abroad as part of their degrees We’re in the business of educating global citizens.

That is one reason why the Global University Summit is such an important event in the higher education calendar.

It is particularly important for us in the UK at this moment because, like so many other countries, we are in the middle of a period of serious fiscal retrenchment. As government looks to reduce, all UK government budget areas (with the exception of schools, the NHS and international development) are facing substantial cuts.

Growth
Our job is to explain that we are in an international race and that the search for elusive growth depends, to a considerable extent, on our ability to stay at the forefront of international higher education.

If we don’t, highly mobile students and academic staff have the world to choose from. The pull of world-class universities encourages businesses to invest in the UK, helps companies grow, and underpins the infrastructure which supports them, including the essential public services.

Universities are also a fantastic advertisement for the UK. Anywhere you go in the world you will find leaders in all parts of public life who were educated here. That creates a network of priceless importance to the UK. It opens up diplomatic and commercial opportunities that cannot be under-estimated. The influence is not only about past links. At almost any point in time, a UK academic will be standing on a platform somewhere promoting the ideas we are generating.

Innovations
We know that university research contributes to UK competitiveness in a range of ways – not only the obvious technological innovations like 3G mobile, a product of Bristol research.

In my view, the major contribution universities make to the economy is through people. 3,800 educated, talented and motivated graduates emerge from the University of Bristol every year. They all have subject-specific knowledge, but more importantly they have the ability to think critically, to challenge received opinion and, we hope, the confidence to drive change.

Employees
That’s one of the reasons why, according to NESTA, innovative businesses have more than double the share of employees with degrees than business categorised as ‘non-innovative’. It goes some way to explaining why the UK economy is becoming increasingly dependent on graduates - a trend which looks likely to continue as the proportion of jobs which require lower skill levels continues to shrink.

And although such companies make up just six per cent of the total number of businesses in the UK, they accounted for 54 per cent of jobs growth between 2002 and 2005.

The political debate in the UK is dominated by deficit reduction, and growth, and the complex relationship between the two. The next election will be won and lost on economic confidence. Spending decisions for 2015-16 will set the tone and the government will be judged on how it balances investment for growth with retrenchment for deficit reduction.

Our job, as our government gears up for some extremely difficult spending decisions is to convince them that this is precisely the wrong moment to cut back on education and research. We’re part of the answer, not part of the problem.

That’s why government must invest in universities.

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 Summit, 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.

Image: 31st Annual Freihofer's Run for Women. Source (Flickr).

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Image. Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor, University of BristolProfessor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bristol

Professor Eric Thomas has been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol since September 2001. He graduated in Medicine from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1976 and proceeded to obtain his MD by thesis in research into endometriosis in 1987. He trained as an obstetrician and gynaecologist and worked at both the universities of Sheffield and Newcastle. In 1991 he was appointed Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Southampton and then became Head of the School of Medicine there in 1995 and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Biological Sciences in 1998. He was a consultant gynaecologist from 1987 to 2001.


April 29, 2013

The collegiate community of students: an interview with Professor Lawrence Young

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/knowledge/business/gus

Photo of students using the Orchard computer suite at the University of Warwick. The Orchard is stocked with Apple computers.
Students in the Interactive Computation Learning Suite in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick. The suite is nicknamed 'The Orchard' as it is filled with 120 Apple iMac computers.

Alex Miles speaks to Professor Lawrence Young, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research (Life Sciences and Medicine) and Capital Development at the University of Warwick.

AM: Last week saw the announcement of another MOOC (massive open online course), in this case the ‘pan-European’ OpenupEd platform. What might the transformative impact of the 'MOOC movement' be on the experiential side of global higher education? Will students demand more from their investment in ‘place’? What might the physical consequences be of a move to predominantly online content provision?

LY: That’s a tricky question. I think part of the student experience has to be wrapped up in what the students gain from actually being here, physically in a ‘place’. I think we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that whilst all digital technology is rapidly developing and providing exciting opportunities to be innovative about the way we deliver, there is something about the collegiate community of students and how that translates into the experience not only in relation to a specific discipline, but also in relation to the overall experience that students gain, and that we all gained when we went to university, over the three or four year period. I think it is really exciting that there are new approaches; I don’t think they will ever replace the actual experience of being on a campus. That doesn’t mean that we do not need to explore more innovative digital approaches in the ways we deliver our curriculum, but for me I think there is something about the core experience of being a student on a campus.

With my capital brief that means we have to look at not only, how we are effectively and efficiently using existing space but also, how we can innovative in the way that we provide space in relation to the learning and teaching experience we give our students. Partly that means being really cutting edge in terms of delivering, in terms of the use of digital media and mobile devices. It also means that we have to accept that whilst things are changing we will always need lectures. Lectures are a really important way of engaging, it’s particularly important in our environment where we are a research imbedded institution. Our belief is that research influences and informs the way that we deliver teaching. One key facet to that is that our students are exposed to the best researchers in the world and by being exposed I think that means direct contact in a either small group context or a lecture hall, and I don’t think we can get around that. So whilst MOOCs are really exciting and whilst there are clear challenges in how universities benefit and are sustainable financially in that environment (those issues need to be considered) I don’t think that replaces the campus experience.

AM: ‘Eds and Meds’ has often been held up by writers such as Will Hutton and David Willetts as the future of western economic growth – acting almost as an indicator of prosperity in some cases. Given your background in the medical sciences – what might the role of universities be in combining ‘eds and meds’ to support the UK’s economic prospects in the short-term?

Photograph of students using the Orchard computer suite at the University of Warwick. The suite got its nickname as its filled with Apple computers.LY: It’s quite clearly an issue about medicine, about bio-medical science and its’ teaching, and about research and how that informs our understanding of the various opportunities there. Clearly there is an on-going need for us to maintain our national position, our UK position in life sciences. One way to achieve that is continue on the enormous strength we have both in research and how that research informs the development of teaching. The issue for me, in terms of what this means for UK science is quite a fundamental. There was a very important report from BIS about a year ago on life sciences and the capacity to grow that area and the interesting interface between innovation in healthcare, not only in the NHS but in world-wide healthcare and the way that we teach our students. Those connections are essential. We need to be creative in the way we provide undergraduate and postgraduate training; there is a massive need within the healthcare system in this country for continued professional development (CPD). I think we are only scratching the surface with things like the reorganisation of the NHS; we need to think about this not only in the context of hard-core biological science but with relevance to social and psychological sciences. As well as the opportunity to interact more effectively with big firms like GE healthcare, who are considering all types of opportunities with digital healthcare, etc. There is a really important position for a university such as ours which is so research intense and has enormous multi-disciplinary strength in health altogether; it’s not just about medicine or biomedicine.

AM: The University of Warwick is hosting the 2013 Global University Summit later this summer, which will issue a formal declaration on higher education to the G8. This year the G8 is focussing on free trade - thinking about that topic, and also thinking about what the G8 traditionally does. If you could get one commitment from the summit of world leaders related to higher education that would benefit the sector, what would that be?

LY: I can’t help but be influenced by my own background. I was in New York recently with the Vice Chancellor at a UN sponsored summit looking at global health and the implications for the post 2015 millennium developments goals. I’d like to see some interaction between those millennium development goals and the G8 summit. Partly considering my medical background, it would be looking at how we can improve health globally and the responsibility that big universities have not only in the way we educate, but in how we disseminate and diffuse and support healthcare systems and biomedical training in developing countries. I’d like to think in terms of economic growth that we can’t take our eye of the fact that we have a responsibility in the west, where we have very developed healthcare systems to think about what that means for countries like sub-Saharan Africa, India or Pakistan. I’d like to see something that acknowledges the primacy of university and of higher education in supporting that interface between the G8 and the development cause.

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 Summit, 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.

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Photograph of Pro-Vice_Chancellor Lawrence Young University of WarwickProfessor Young was appointed to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor post this year. He is responsible for the University’s Life Sciences and Medicine research strategy, including the development of research opportunities both nationally and internationally and the raising of research income, publications and citation scores for the School of Life Sciences and the Warwick Medical School. Lawrence leads on the University’s capital development and space management programmes working closely with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost. He also works closely with the Registrar and Chief Operating Officer in developing and implementing the University’s environment and carbon management strategy.

He has, along with the other Pro-Vice-Chancellors, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, and the Registrar and Chief Operating Officer, responsibility for supporting the Vice-Chancellor and President in developing the University’s international profile with a particular focus on relationships with China. The Pro-Vice-Chancellors also chair committees to hear complaints, appeals and disciplinary issues.



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