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Friday 11 September 2015

The UUK Conference 2015

The UK Universities Annual Conference on Wednesday 9 September 2015 (#UUK2015) received a fair amount of live coverage via twitter, and saw further commentary develop through various media outlets over the following days.  The speech of Universities Minister Jo Johnson has so far received the most coverage, overshadowing UUK President Goodfellow’s first major speech in her new position.  Global BU would like to highlight some key issues raised in Goodfellow’s speech, moving away from media emphasis of the ‘transformative’ capabilities of Universities.

GlobalBU has a keen interest and focus towards the internationalisation of Universities, therefore we welcomed Dame Goodfellow’s in-depth treatment of internationalisation’s importance, and her recognition of the ‘enormous benefits to the wider international reach of UK universities’. It was made clear that our vision as future global leaders is being stunted by our unwelcoming climate towards international students, while our competitors – such as the ‘US, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, China and others - are implementing strategies and targets to increase the number of international students going to their universities’.   She urged ‘Government to remove international students from their net migration target’ and drew attention to supporters in Parliament, business groups and the public who see ‘current policy’ as ‘counterproductive’.      

The UUK President made a strong case that ‘we are not complacent’ and that ‘we should be a powerful and positive voice’ working in partnership and collaboration to proactively work through ‘significant funding and policy challenges’.  She also held that staff and students should be made ‘aware of the issues’ and that we should ‘make sure our views are heard on this decisive issue for our universities and our country’.  There was no modesty in drawing attention to the huge impact universities generate to the local and national economy, as well as the ‘soft power’ it has on an international level.  She said that it was ‘imperative to work collectively as a sector and in partnership with students, with industry, with government and their agencies’, and took a firm closing statement that ‘if we wish to have a thriving knowledge based economy(…)we need to invest now’.      

This year’s Annual Conference was themed ‘The Sustainability of the UK Higher Education System in the Context of the Evolving Relationship between Universities and Governments’, which – to provide some sympathy to the Universities Minister – could be seen as a clear discussion about domestic issues such as the Green Paper, TEF, transparency, widening participation and a level playing field, all mentioned in his speech.  However one of the issues in assuming that the ‘sustainability of the UK higher education system’ can be discussed from a purely domestic perspective without recognising the clear and valuable benefits of internationalisation, in terms of students, research, global talent, academic experience, etc., is that it compartmentalises policies without appreciating the critical links between the national and global.  To use a similar metaphor as Johnson, and feel free to cringe, it is similar to Byron Burgers ignoring the impact McDonalds plays in the UK burger scene because they are international.  As unsuccessful as the above metaphor is, the point is that while domestic concerns are of utmost importance, any industry connected with the global on such a scale as HE is, cannot risk being walled into confined national and domestic visions.  Improving teaching quality, for example, is linked to having a fresh and global awareness and outlook so that our students can appreciate and understand that transferability of skills and knowledge necessitates cultural and contextual considerations, and a global mindset.   

Global BU has recognised the value and importance that international students, partnerships and collaborations bring to our campuses, communities and lives. Much of our work is focused towards demonstrating this value, much of which you will find on this website in the coming months. 

Hana Morel

Researcher (Global Engagement)


Interesting reports

A selection of reports relevant to GlobalBU’s focus


The report examines employment of students who have completed a full-time first degree course.


The European University Association has published a report, Trends 2015: Learning and Teaching in European Universities, which looks at major trends in HE across Europe over a five year period.

Conversis Report, Importance of global talent within international businesses [September 2015]

The report highlights the importance of cultural understanding and language skills for successfully operating in the international marketplace. The research looks at the UK and the US, and recommends both colleges and universities continue promoting global thinking amongst their students.

HEFCE, Differences in Degree outcomes: The effect of subject and student characteristics

This report demonstrates how demography places a significant role in degree outcomes.

CFHE, Back to School in Higher Ed: Who Needs Faculty?

This report looks at the impact that decreasing faculty-student interaction has on students, and calls on colleges and universities to reconsider the role faculty play in successfully carrying out education.