Higher Ambitions-The Future of Universities in a Knowledge Economy

Lord Mandelson has launched Higher Ambitions – The Future of Universities in a Knowledge Economy, the Government’s vision for the future of Higher Education in the United Kingdom.

Higher Ambitions sets out a strategy for universities to remain world class, providing the nation with the high level skills needed to remain competitive, while continuing to attract the brightest students and researchers.


Higher Ambitions executive summary (pdf) – http://www.bis.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/publications/Higher-Ambitions-Summary.pdf

Higher Ambitions full report (pdf) – http://www.bis.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/publications/Higher-Ambitions.pdf

Lord Mandelson’s statement – http://services.parliament.uk/hansard/Lords/bydate/20091103/mainchamberdebates/part008.html

Key measures set out in the framework include:

  • More competition between universities, giving greater priority to programmes that meet the need for high level skills;
  • Business to be more engaged in the funding and design of programmes, sponsorship of students, and work placements;
  • Creating more part-time, work-based and foundation degrees to make it easier for adults to go to university, with routes from apprenticeships through to Foundation Degrees and other vocational programmes;
  • Encouraging universities to consider contextual data in admissions, as one way of ensuring that higher education is available to all young people who have the ability to benefit;
  • Universities setting out clearly what students can expect in terms of the nature and quality of courses offered;
  • Sustaining our world class research base by continuing to focus on excellence, concentrating research funding where needed to secure critical mass and impact, including via e-learning; and
  • Encouraging collaboration between universities on world class research, especially in high cost science.

In the House of Lords Lord Mandelson said:

“Able people and bright ideas are the foundation stones of a thriving knowledge economy and in the next ten years we will want more, not fewer people in higher education, and more not less quality research.

“We have made great progress in the number of young people going to university at 18 or 19 to do a three year degree. But the challenge for the next decade is to offer a wider range of new study opportunities – part-time, work-based, foundation degrees and studying whilst at home – to a greater range of people.

“All students must continue to enter higher education on their merit. But I believe this means taking account of a student’s academic attainment, their aptitude and their potential. Many universities are already developing their use of contextual data in admissions and we hope that all universities will look at their examples and consider incorporating such data in their admissions processes.

“The Government also want universities to make an even bigger contribution to Britain’s economic recovery and future growth.

“We have therefore decided to give greater priority to programmes that meet the need for high level skills, especially in key areas such as science, technology, engineering and maths. There will be a greater element of competition between universities for new contestable funding as an incentive to fulfil this priority. With employers and universities, we will identify where the supply of graduates is not meeting demand for key skills. And we will seek to re-balance this, by asking HEFCE to prioritise the courses and subjects which match these skills needs.

“We will look to business to be more active partners with our universities. We want employers to be fully engaged in the funding and design of university programmes, the sponsorship of students, and offering work placements.

“In the decade ahead we will expect more from our universities than ever before. They will need to use their resources more effectively, reach out to a wider range of potential students and devise new sources of income, at the same time as they maintain teaching and research excellence.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills also announced that Sir Martin Harris, the Director for Fair Access, will consult with Vice Chancellors and provide the Government with a report on what further action could be taken to widen access to highly selective universities for those from under privileged backgrounds.

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