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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 19, 2013

The Attraction of UK Universities

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

Image. Students walking through bluebells on the University of Warwick campus

A blog post by Sir John O’Reilly, Director General, Knowledge and Innovation, BIS.

Our Universities are one of the UK’s national assets. They have a worldwide reputation for teaching and research and make a valuable contribution to economic growth not just through their employment and expenditure, but as a provider of skilled people; through attracting inward investment; facilitating the innovation ecosystem; supplying workforce development services; supporting business start-ups and commercialisation of research and through civic leadership.

Higher education is an important part of the UK economy. The sector employs more than one per cent of the UK’s total workforce. UK universities generate over a third of their funds from non-public sources and their export earnings exceed £8bn, including expenditure by overseas students.

The UK is already one of the most attractive places in the world to study. We have a 13 per cent share of the international higher education (HE) student market by nationality, and over 75 per cent of institutions provide higher education qualifications overseas. To support growth in this important area, the Government is developing an education exports industrial strategy, which will cover the full range of UK education exports from English language training to further and higher education.

Universities’ income from engagement with business and community is at an unprecedented level, and has more than doubled in real terms since 2001 to £3.43bn per annum. Industry has been attracted to working in the UK by our universities, by our skilled people, by the quality of our research and the ease with which the UK transacts its relationships.

We often look to the USA for lessons on university-business interactions: but the World Economic Forum rated the UK second in the world for university-business collaborations – ahead of the United States. UK higher education institutions (HEIs) generate higher number of patents and more spin-outs per pound of research, and attract a similar proportion of industry funding as US HEIs.

Universities are part of the UK’s national infrastructure. The UK Research Partnership Investment Fund helps universities to accelerate private co-investment in UK university research infrastructure and create long-term research partnerships with businesses and charities. This co-investment model will secure over £1bn, through providing £300m of public money.

The Government is actively seeking to support universities to build strategic relationships with business. However we recognise that working with business is not just about securing finance from the private sector: there are wide range of knowledge exchange activities that occur between academia and business.

Tim Wilson’s review of business-university collaborationtold me that there are already excellent links between businesses and universities. But we can do more. This is why BIS has supported the creation of the National Centre for Universities and Business. We don’t think any other country has this facility and we believe it will give us a real competitive edge.

Universities also play a unique and multi-faceted role in local economic development. We need to ensure we realise these benefits and the Government has invited Sir Andrew Witty to lead a review to explore further how universities can work with local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and other local organisations to support growth.

The review will explore the range of ways that universities contribute to their local economies and identify where we have world leading capabilities in our research base that can underpin the sectors and technologies of the industrial strategy, and how we can maximise their impact.

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: Students exploring the University of Warwick campus

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Image. Sir John O’Reilly Director General, Knowledge and Innovation, BIS

Sir John O’Reilly
Director General, Knowledge and Innovation, BIS

Sir John O’Reilly was appointed Director General of Knowledge and Innovation in February 2013. John came from Cranfield University where he was Vice Chancellor from December 2006.


April 23, 2013

An avalanche is coming – higher education and the revolution ahead

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


Photo of a snow covered mountain in British Columbia.
In the path of an avalanche: Columbia-Shuswap, British Columbia, CA
Image c/o DCZwick

Sir Michael Barber, Chief Education Strategist for Pearson, discusses his vision for twenty-first century education.

The twenty-first century is presenting unprecedented challenges at a global scale. The threat of climate change is deepening, the income gap is widening, tensions in international relations are rising and weapons of mass destruction are ubiquitous.

Meanwhile, economic activity is moving rapidly eastward and existing global leadership is being called into question. While many debate whether this will be an ‘Asian’ or ‘Pacific’ century, I take this as a point of departure. After 350 years of Atlantic leadership of the global economy, we will see the Pacific rise. At the very least, Asia will share in global leadership.

This shift in power is inevitable, but it is not yet fully realized. Today, Western powers are lagging and growth remains slow, but the Asian countries have not yet emerged as true global leaders. In other words, we have a world with immense problems without clear global leadership.

This leaves a number of critical open questions: What kind of leadership will the twenty-first century require? To what extent is the Pacific region ready to provide this leadership? What are the implications of the answers to these questions for public policy in Pacific Asia and for education systems in particular? And what are the implications for the G8 education leaders represented here?

My answer to these questions emphasises the importance of innovation. Innovation drives economic influence; economic influence underpins global leadership; and global leadership requires innovation to solve the many problems facing humanity in the next half century. If this is correct, and innovation is the key, then even the best education systems in the world need to radically rethink what they offer every student. This is true regardless of geography.

Leadership
This philosophy of everyone as an entrepreneur and innovator is not what underpins education anywhere in the world today. Any country that wants to provide global leadership needs to undertake a radical transformation of their education systems. Innovation needs to be at the heart of any successful secondary or higher education system.

Although this is a substantial challenge, the responsibility of our education systems and institutions is to prepare present and future generations to seize the opportunities of the twenty-first century and overcome its many challenges. The accelerating pace of change suggests that with clear leadership there could be an ever better future ahead.

My belief is that deep, radical and urgent transformation is required in higher education as much as it is in school systems. My fear is that, perhaps as a result of complacency, caution or anxiety, or a combination of all three, the pace of change is too slow and the nature of change too incremental.

I agree with David Puttnam who argued, in a speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in June 2012, that:

"[I]t’s ... tragic because, by my reading, should we fail to radically change our approach to education, the same cohort we’re attempting to 'protect' could find that their entire future is scuttled by our timidity."

We need – as the London 2012 Olympics promised – an inspired generation, all of whom are well-educated and some of whom are able to provide the bold, sophisticated leadership that the twenty-first century demands. We need citizens ready to take personal responsibility both for themselves and for the world around them: citizens who have, and seize, the opportunity to learn and relearn throughout their lives. We need citizens who are ready and able to take their knowledge of the best that has been thought and said and done and apply it to the problems of the present and the future.

Traditional
This surely should be the mission of universities. However, traditional twentieth universities are not meeting this high bar. Simultaneously, the ubiquity of information, the rising value placed on practical learning, and the increased willingness to consider alternative certifications has begun to weaken university walls. When faced with the rising cost of a university education and the decreasing value one is forced to ask: What is the future role of the university?

This poses a real threat to institutions that don’t change radically, as well as huge opportunities to those that choose to respond rapidly. I liken this to an avalanche. The one certainty for anyone in the path of an avalanche is that standing still is not an option. Indeed, it is a classic error of strategy to calculate the risks of action but fail to calculate the (often greater) risks of doing nothing.

There is by no means one certain way forward from here. Instead, what we will probably see is a diverse range of experiments, some of which will work and some of which won’t. I can imagine some universities succeeding by attracting only elite students, such as Harvard today, while others radically rethink their approach and open education to the masses, perhaps through a platform like Coursera. The central message to leaders of universities and those who shape and regulate education is, in the words of the old hymn, to ‘ponder anew’.

The certainties of the past are no longer certainties. The models of higher education that marched triumphantly across the globe in the second half of the twentieth century are insufficient for the future. Just as globalisation and technology have transformed other huge sectors of the economy in the past 20 years, in the next 20 years universities face transformation. In An Avalanche is Coming my colleagues and I aim to provoke creative dialogue and challenge complacency.

There is an abundance of innovation in education. We are on the brink of a brave new world of learning. I hope to encourage all those responsible for universities to consider their options creatively.

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 Sir Michael Barber PearsonsSir Michael Barber is a leading authority on education systems and education reform. Over the past two decades his research and advisory work has focused on school improvement, standards and performance; system-wide reform; effective implementation; access, success and funding in higher education; and access and quality in schools in developing countries.

Prior to Pearson, he was a Partner at McKinsey & Company and Head of McKinsey’s global education practice. He co-authored two major McKinsey education reports: How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better (2010) and How the world’s best-performing schools come out on top (2007). He is also Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Exeter.

He previously served the UK government as Head of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (from 2001-2005) and as Chief Adviser to the Secretary of State for Education on School Standards (from 1997-2001). Before joining government he was a professor at the Institute of Education at the University of London. He is the author of several books including Instruction to Deliver; The Learning Game: Arguments for an Education Revolution and How to do the Impossible: a Guide for Politicians with a Passion for Education.

[Source: Pearson]


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