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Commission on the Future of Higher Education Priority

higher education


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This is a time of profound change in our higher education system. Rising tuition fees, the expansion of market forces and greater international competition are all putting pressure on the system. It is time to step back and take a strategic view: what do we want from higher education and how should the sector be organised?

Higher education is crucial to Britain’s future. It plays a vital role in developing the knowledge, skills and values that underpin a good society. Higher education institutions produce new ideas, foster creativity, enhance innovation, strengthen the economy and enliven our cultural life. 

Just as the Robbins and Dearing reports took a step back to look strategically at the future of higher education, so too will this commission examine the role higher education plays in our national life and address the key challenges it will face over the next 20 years.

Project detail

IPPR’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education will address the key challenges facing the country’s higher education sector over the next 20 years. It will produce a policy framework that will safeguard and strengthen the position of our universities and colleges in the long term. The commission is being led by a number of vice-chancellors, academic experts, business and student representatives.

The commission will explore the future of higher education in a number of traditional areas, such as its place in the economy and how it is funded. The commission will also explore wider themes, such the role of vocational education in the sector and how universities can support a thriving public realm. Some of the questions the commission hopes to answer include:

  • What is the purpose of higher education in the 21st century?
  • What mix of higher education institutions do we want to serve a diverse, expanding student population?
  • What role can higher education play in promoting sustainable economic growth and a rebalanced economy across England?
  • To what extent should the overall structure of the sector be determined by market forces or to what extent should government play a strategic role?
  • If investment in world-class research and teaching is to keep pace with the best in the world in an age of austerity, how can we pay for it?
  • If universities are public institutions, how should they be governed?
  • What should be the relationship between higher education and other forms of tertiary education?

The commission will run from February 2012 to May 2013. IPPR will house and support the commission, which will meet at six points throughout the course of the year to guide our research and recommendations.