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The UK's only independent think tank devoted to higher education.

HEPI-HEA House of Commons Breakfast Seminars 2013

  • 16 January 2013 - 24 April 2013
  • House of Commons, London SW1

Attendance at the HEPI House of Commons breakfast seminars is by invitation only

New Ways of Doing things – opening up Higher Education in the age of austerity

Wednesday 16 January 2013 – House of Commons, 08.15-10.15

According to a recent European Commission report, to remain competitive countries need to adapt their higher education systems to meet the challenges resulting from rapid societal change. In particular, they need to open up opportunities for more people to benefit from higher education. In England, a key Government objective of the reforms set out in the Higher Education White Paper is to create a simpler and more transparent system that allows for greater diversity of provision – one way it is aiming to do this is by widening access to university title for smaller providers.  Focusing on the supply side to create more opportunities for people to access higher education is one route to opening up higher education.  However in today’s wired world,  the facility to develop more creative and more open routes to accessing higher level learning are many and varied.  But some commentators argue that the real stumbling block to opening up higher education to more people is the continuing adherence to an outmoded degree classification system and without the development of an effective credit-based entry system, the UK’s higher education sector will fail to capitalise on the opportunities which now exist to open up higher education in this country.  What are the stumbling blocks for UK universities in opening up HE and how can they effectively develop new ways of doing things?

Speakers: Sir Tim O’Shea, Vice Chancellor University of Edinburgh & Chair of JISC; Professor Madeleine Atkins, Vice Chancellor, University of Coventry

Who is Higher Education for?

Wednesday 20 February 2013 – House of Commons, 08.15-10.15

With students seeing the cost of a university education in England now trebling, the question of who is higher education for – who needs it and who benefits from it – has been brought into sharp focus.  Does the increased private contribution reflect a view that the private benefit is greater than the public? To what extent should universities be regarded as existing to meet the needs of society and the economy, and to what extent to meet the private aspirations of students?  What about research and their role in extending the frontiers of knowledge?  How to balance the sometimes complementary and sometimes competing roles of universities?

Speakers:  Professor Sir Robert Burgess, Vice Chancellor, University of Leicester & Chair of the Higher Education Academy; Professor Steven Schwarz, former Vice-Chancellor of McQuarrie University and Brunel University (Transcript of speakers’ opening comments available to download here)

Widening Access – Unfinished business?

Wednesday 20 March 2013 – House of Commons, 08.15-10.15

With heightened fears in the sector that the increased cost of a university education may deter many qualified potential students from applying to university, the challenge of how to effectively widen access to higher education is as great as ever. Reflecting this nervousness, the Government appointed its own Advocate for Access to Education, Simon Hughes MP whose report (published in July 2011) made over thirty recommendations that aim to increase participation in higher education. The Government also issued revised guidance to OFFA this year seeing it as the main delivery mechanism for promoting and safeguarding access to higher education.  OFFA’s guidance to institutions, published in April 2012, refers to several issues raised in the Hughes report including strengthening expectations on collaboration, working with schools and colleges, and the influence of student unions in drawing up access agreements.  With HEFCE and OFFA now working together to develop a join strategy, what should be the next steps in developing an effective policy for promoting widening participation and fair access?

Speakers: Simon Hughes MP, Government’s Advocate for Access to Higher Education; Professor David Eastwood, Vice Chancellor, University of Birmingham and Chair of the Russell Group (Professor David Eastwood’s powerpoint presentation is available for download here)

What role for the market in higher education?

Wednesday 24 April 2013 – House of Commons, 08.15-10.15

Some commentators argue that with the changes taking place in the HE sector, we are already seeing universities beginning to operate in a market system with institutions competing on price, product and reputation to attract consumers (the students).  That was always the intention of the Coalition Government when introducing its changes to the English HE system in the belief that the establishment of an effective market in HE would drive up standards, quality and efficiency.  But with the introduction of a generous and progressive student loans system – to offset fears that the trebling of English university tuition fees would deter well-qualified but poorer students from applying to university – public investment in the English university sector is still substantial and higher education remains an essential cornerstone of the Government’s attempts to create a globally competitive economy.  Is it ever going to be possible to establish an effective market in HE?  Is it desirable to wish to do so?

Speakers:  Nick Hillman, Special Advisor to the Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister of State for Universities & Science; Professor Nicholas Barr, Professor of Public Economics, LSE; Professor Roger Brown, Professor of HE at Liverpool Hope University and author of “Everything for Sale”. (Transcripts of speakers’ opening comments available for download here)

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