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We were delighted to have many of you join us in London for our annual conference. The title of the event was Integrity and authenticity in higher education: Realising place, mission and identity. We delved into the scope and complexity of higher education, despite aspects of the sector being somewhat homogenized, and explored a potential increasing need for institutions to focus on what they do best, for the communities they serve. This includes an examination of universities’ civic duties and the importance of having a robust place strategy to position them within their distinct geographical, cultural, and social contexts.
Despite being unified by compliance and measurements related to funding and regulation, and by further metrics used by third parties such as league table providers, we wish to highlight the importance of also allowing time to think outside of standardised approaches. Universities must be enabled the freedom to embrace their unique identities. With growing funding pressures, and a lack of solutions to many of these pressures, there is a need for institutions to troubleshoot to find new and diverse income streams which are specific to them. This is just one example of the way in which it will benefit higher education providers now to think differently and celebrate distinctiveness, and there are many others.
Higher education providers, and indeed all those in the tertiary education sector, must also keep a close eye on the changes that are happening around them, and equip the workforce of the future with the knowledge and skills required to face the future. In the face of growing demand for higher education, we must be able to maintain the excellent quality for which our UK-sector is renowned. We must also respond to developments in digital and AI, and to an urgent necessity for more green skills. At the conference we explored fresh insights and heard from experts about how the sector, and the individual providers within it – each in their own distinct way - will need to be flexible to continually adapt to be of the greatest value to their many and varied stakeholders, and to our future.
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