CANVAS: Higher Education Spring 2017 - page 4

4
CANVAS
UNIVERSITIES:
THE ENGINE ROOM OF THE UK ECONOMY?
01
FEATURE
Interview with
Dr Jennifer Barnes,
Partner in the Higher Education Practice at Saxton Bampfylde.
H
OW IMPORTANT IS IT THAT
HIGHER EDUCATION IS NOT
SILOED FROM OTHER SECTORS
IN THE UK?
I view the Higher
Education sector as the engine room for
industries, creativity and culture in the
UK. Our institutions produce some of the
most talented teams and individuals in the
world, and we need to recognise that across
all sectors. For centuries, not decades,
individuals hungry for an outstanding
education, with its environment of meeting
others who will stimulate their abilities, have
chosen to be in the United Kingdom for their
education.
In a recent FT article about the impact of
Brexit on the City, the Chairman of Barclays
was quoted as saying, ‘the talent doesn’t
exist in the UK for the higher skilled jobs’. I
realise this was in response to his concern,
shared across Higher Education, that the UK
will fall behind in every conceivable way if
we appear as a country opposed to foreign
integration. But it also struck me that if
he was representative of a belief that UK
universities are not producing graduates
who can compete with those from overseas,
he may well be unaware of the formidable
abilities and skills, equal to any other part of
the world, that the UK sector develops and
delivers.
Unless Higher Education is understood
as central to human progress, the UK will
struggle. To keep that engine room running
at full speed, it needs to be recognised as
fundamental to ensuring the future of a
nation.
WHICH SECTORS ARE WORKING/
PARTNERING MOST SUCCESSFULLY
WITH THE HE SECTOR? WHY DO YOU
THINK THIS IS?
C. P. Snow charts a change
during WWII in the kinds of interactions
between individuals in Government,
academia and industry, in his lecture ‘
Science
and Government’
. In doing so, he also
demonstrates Higher Education as part of
a wider ecosystem, a triangle that exists
between Higher Education, government
and industry/cultural institutions. Each has
a different purpose; the success of each is
defined by the quality of their relationship
with one another.
Yet policies often address only one of the
areas, either a ‘business’ strategy, or an
‘education’ strategy. Yes, financial support
is needed, but for industries and higher
education they both demand, rightly, that
whatever is put in place increases knowledge,
productivity and innovation, and that the
success of these can be measured differently
in each sector.
WHICH SECTORS MORE NATURALLY
COLLABORATE WITH EACH OTHER?
It is
impossible to find any great area of research
in UK which isn’t being driven by Higher
Education: Energy, global health, precision
medicine, advanced materials, smart cities,
and all the work around ageing and big
data are key examples. Often overlooked is
the importance of the Creative Industries,
which demonstrate the interdependence
of sciences, humanities and the performing
arts. They lead in embedding new design
and technology, in all areas of performance,
and far from making the performer obsolete,
redefines the relationship between humans
and technology. This directly translates
into economic benefit and international
collaboration.
WHAT OTHER CROSS SECTORAL
OPPORTUNITIES DO YOU BELIEVE
THERE ARE THAT CAN BRING POSITIVE
RESULTS?
An interesting area gathering
increased attention is wellbeing, and what
a society needs to do to bring this to the
forefront and support it. There is a lot of
work being undertaken right across the UK,
at what makes a well-balanced human being.
This underscores the importance of many
disciplines that have been overlooked in an
economic assessment of the value of Higher
Education. There are signs that the Higher
Education sector will drive this work.
ARE THERE LESSONS THAT THE HE
SECTOR CAN LOOK TO FROM AN
INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE?
Across
the international market, the terms ‘private’
and ‘public’ are used in different ways, not
only from country to country, but also within
the same sector in the same country. This is
also true for higher education.
Our universities have many successful
“Unless Higher Education is understood
as central to human progress, the UK will
struggle.”
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