For the past 18 months, I have been delighted to serve as HEPI’s first Director of Policy and Advocacy – a role which has cemented my deep-seated interest in higher education policy and instilled in me a genuine desire to contribute to the sustained success of the UK higher education sector.
It is thanks to this role that I have advanced my knowledge of UK higher education policy, as well as developed essential contacts across institutions. It has been a real pleasure to get to know the Vice-Chancellors and the senior leadership teams of the UK’s vast array of universities and colleges, not to mention the academics, administrators and practitioners working at the coalface of policy formation and implementation.
Yet, as the well-known saying goes, ‘all good things come to an end’ … and at the end of this month, I will be stepping down from my position at HEPI and moving on to pastures new. But I won’t be disappearing altogether. I’ll be taking the knowledge, experience and contacts I’ve built up with me to my new role as Policy Adviser for higher education to Sam Gyimah, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation.
I am looking forward to this new opportunity. If there was ever a good time to be influencing UK higher education policy, it is now – as the new regulatory landscape in England gets up and running and while there are still many unanswered questions on the table, including questions about:
- the future funding of higher education in England;
- the implications of Brexit on international staff and student recruitment UK-wide;
- the growing future demand for (full-time) higher education and how best to provide for it;
- the declining demand for part-time higher education and how best to fix it;
- the increasing pressure on institutions to demonstrate ‘value for money’; and
- the creation of truly inclusive institutions, which will ensure everyone who aspires to a higher education can access it, participate in it and succeed.
Wherever you stand on these topics, and more, now is certainly the time to get a grip on these issues and tackle them as appropriate. This will give our higher education sector the best chance at upholding its world-class reputation for years to come.
I have already learnt so much by engaging with key influencers from across the sector while at HEPI. One of my favourite aspects of my current job has always been getting out and about, visiting different higher education institutions, to see first-hand what it is that makes them unique, to meet the people behind them, to talk to their students and, above all, to understand how policy change is affecting institutions on the ground. I am truly grateful to everyone who has invited me to visit their campuses to date and I remain inspired by your positive work.
So, as I prepare to move on from HEPI in the coming weeks, I take with me an appreciation of the full diversity of the UK higher education sector and the need to think broadly about any future policy initiatives – thinking about applicants as well as graduates; students as well as staff; support staff as well as academics; and the local as well as the global.
I hope I can do justice to all these different dimensions in my new position – being of the sector, working with the sector, for the good health and continued success of the sector.