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The strange death of British higher education

As Wales and the other devolved countries within Britain develop their own policies relating to University education, Professor Sir Deian Hopkin is to give a timely public lecture on ‘The strange death of British higher education’ at Bangor University at 6.30 on Thursday 31 March at the University’s Main Arts Lecture Theatre.  All are invited to what will be a thought provoking lecture- after which there will be an opportunity to discuss some of the issues raised. 

According to Professor Sir Deian Hopkin: “We stand on the threshold of arguably the most momentous change in higher education since the establishment of the University Grants Committee in 1919.  What does this change represent and will the very different approaches of Wales, Scotland and England mean the end of “British higher education” as we have known it?” 

The condition and prospects for British universities and higher education have rarely attracted as much attention as at present.  While significant budget cuts are being imposed by all four UK administrations and proposed changes to visa regulations are likely to affect the flow of overseas students across the entire British Isles,  each part of the UK is dealing with its higher education in a different way.   In particular the issue of tuition fees and the level of direct government financial support for higher education have become major points of difference between England, Scotland and Wales.   This in turn raises questions about the continuing validity of the term “British higher education”.  What are the prospects for higher education in the UK ?  How will the international standing of universities be affected by all the changes?   As the balance of financial contribution shifts from the State to the individual  is there a danger that the long-established  notion of education as a public good may be sacrificed in order to foster the notion of private gain?  And who, in the end, gains?  

Deian Hopkin has spent 44 years teaching, researching and managing in higher education in five universities, both pre- and post-1992, including 24 years at Aberystwyth.   He was Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of London South Bank University and interim Vice Chancellor of the University of East London.  In 2009 he conducted an independent review for the government into the performance of the Student Loans Company and in 2010 was appointed interim Chairman of the SLC.  He is a member of the newly established all-party Higher Education Commission and Chairman of the Local Economy Policy Unit.  

Publication date: 25 March 2011