Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Edgeless University

Today (23rd June 2009), the thinktank Demos launched "The Edgeless University", a new pamphlet exploring the impact of technological and social change on universities. The launch was by David Lammy MP (Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property) Peter Bradwell (Researcher, Demos) Malcolm Read (Executive Secretary, JISC) Ann Mroz (Editor, Times Higher Education, Ed Smith (Demos Trustee and Board Member, Higher Education Funding Council for England) and Richard Reeves, (Director Demos (Chair))

The full document can be downloaded from here an dit addresses why higher education must embrace technology.

Here are some key quotes:

"The aim has to be to make those running universities realise that technology isn’t just something that means you build a room full of computers on your campus."

"Universities provide spaces for developing expertise, validating learning and they bring prestige to those affiliated to them. This is not going to change. Instead they will have to start to open up continued learning and innovation to a wider population. Giving more people more ways to learn and research will be the only way to reconcile aspirations to maintain a world-class education system with high participation rates and moves towards equality of access."

"Institutions will find it difficult to continue to absorb rises in student numbers, or to pursue research excellence or handle the diversity of needs on campus. And people will continue to
take advantage of more flexible opportunities to learn outside the system. This is the value of and opportunity for the ‘Edgeless University’. At its most radical, edgelessness can lead to
institutions exploring new ways of accrediting learning, of providing recognition of research and learning and of offering affiliation. Those in informal learning can be offered help in finding routes to formal qualification, connecting with alternative providers or alternative open learning resources and of finding new forms of course provision."

The document looks at the importance of getting the technology right, but just as importantly getting the policy right.

Chapters are:

1 Universities challenged
2 Technology as cause: information technologies, learning and collaboration
3 Technology as solution: becoming edgeless
4 Managing the Edgeless University: challenges and recommendations

I'll blog more on the document once I've read it in more detail,but suffice to say there is plenty here for us to listen to, to consider where we are now as a Faculty or University, to recognise where we are already doing well under some of the headings, and most importantly where we need to do more.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Peter Mandelson Speech at Aston University

Lord Mandelson has given a speech on his vision for HE and FE delivered at Aston University on 16 June 2009. This provides some useful pointers for the future.

Key points:
  • "First, a high degree of autonomy for universities and further education has been central to their success."
  • "we can boost the role of universities in generating our economic growth without in any way compromising the place of fundamental science or curiosity-driven research in their mix."
  • "Finally, over the next few months we will be publishing a framework for the future shape of our higher education system followed by an independent review on student fees.
Questions? Will autonomy be preserved? To what extent will there be more emphasis on shorter term commercialisation of research? And what's the betting that the review of student fees will take place after the election!

BIS, Mandelson and the future?

It's been a while since I've had the time to right anything of note on this blog - and so much has happened in the intervening period - on a work related note we've been busy with assessment and award boards and some really exciting new developments for our Faculty. In the wider world, the political establishment has been tearing itself apart after the revelations in the Daily Telegraph about expenses, and the results of local and European elections.

So after the inevitable cabinet reshuffle, we no longer have a government department with the word "universities" in its title, and higher and further education now comes under the remit of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, led by the irrepressible Peter Mandelson.

SO what is it all going to mean for us...........some have complained that universities need to have more visible representation (going back to titles of departments?) and others are not happy about linking universities and business. Linking them to innovation and skills doesn't seem to be such a bad idea though!

This week's Times Higher has a report and an interview with Mandy. The article discusses the possibility of universities being given financial incentives to address skills shortages in the economy. Les Ebdon, chairman of the Million+ group of universities, warned that while the idea of predicting future skills needs was "superficially" attractive, the Government had an "awful" record in the area. The interview is interesting - Peter Mandelson told Times Higher Education that far from being horrified by the restructuring in Whitehall, universities were "delighted" by the change.