Universities Minister speaks at 2011 Dearing Conference

18 Feb 2011 00:00:00.000

PA 53/11

Minister of State for Universities and Science the Rt Hon David Willetts MP delivered a keynote address to delegates from around the world at the second Annual Dearing Higher Education Conference.

The 2011 event, hosted by The University of Nottingham on Thursday 17th February at the East Midlands Conference Centre on University Park, focused on ‘The Globalisation of Higher Education’. It fielded international speakers from the European Union, Australia, China, and Kurdistan, all sharing experiences of global higher education.

At a time of unprecedented change for universities in England, the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Sir Alan Langlands, returned to Nottingham to present the other main keynote address: Ensuring international competitiveness in HE in a period of transition.

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Throughout the day over 330 delegates explored four broad subjects: changing patterns of competition; changing patterns of provision; teaching, research and business engagement; and regional perspectives. The Minister addressed delegates on the subject of social mobility.

The University hosts the Annual Dearing Higher Education Conference each year in memory of Lord Dearing, who died in 2009, recognising his contribution to university education. As Sir Ron Dearing, he left an indelible mark on higher education with his transformative 1997 report Higher Education in the Learning Society. He also had particular impact on The University of Nottingham as its Chancellor from 1993 to 2000.

Lord Dearing held a series of major appointments in higher education, as chairman of the Universities Funding Council and its successor body the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). He served as the fifth Chancellor of The University of Nottingham from 1993–2000. During his term of office he saw a major expansion of the University’s student numbers, the opening of the Jubilee Campus and establishment of The University of Nottingham in Malaysia. 

In his address, David Willetts revealed a family connection with The University of Nottingham through his wife, Sarah. She spent part of her childhood living in Highfield House on University Park while her father, John Butterfield, was Vice-Chancellor from 1971-75. During his visit, the Minister was shown Highfield House by  the University's current Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Greenaway.

Among the expert speakers who presented this year were Mr TIAN Xiaogang, Education Minister Counsellor at the Chinese Embassy; Professor Dlawer Ala’Aldeen, Minister of Higher Education & Scientific Research, Kurdistan Regional Government; Ms Eva Egron-Polak, Secretary-General of the International Association of Universities; and Bernd Waechter, Director, ACA — Academic Cooperation Association.

Other speakers included Professor John Wood, Secretary General of The Association of Commonwealth Universities; Mr Will Archer, Director of International Graduate Insight Group (i-graduate); and Professor Simon Marginson, Professor of Higher Education at The University of Melbourne, Australia.

Professor David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of The University of Birmingham, was one of several senior figures from UK universities who addressed the conference. At the start of February, The Universities of Nottingham and Birmingham announced a groundbreaking framework for collaboration spanning research initiatives, student experience, business engagement and internationalisation — an innovative new partnership model for HE.

Professor Eastwood’s presentation, Global tunes and national melodies: being global and sounding local, gave his perspective. Under ‘Teaching, Research and Business Engagement’, Dr Philip Nolan, Registrar, Deputy President and Vice-President for Academic Affairs at University College Dublin, considered the meaning of liberal education in a globalised world. From King’s College London, Professor Alison Wolf, Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management, asked Are credits all they’re cracked up to be?

The University of Nottingham, with full campuses in the United Kingdom, at Ningbo in China, and at Semenyih in Malaysia, has been described by The Times as “the nearest Britain has to a truly global university”. In Around the world in 80 ways: internationalizing higher education, the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Internationalisation, Professor Christine Ennew, explained Nottingham’s own strategy.

Through the use of high definition live video streaming technology and questions fielded via text message, the Conference itself was a truly international affair. Senior staff at the Nottingham’s Malaysia campus were keen to be involved in the Dearing Conference, so the University’s Information Systems department set up a live video feed.

A group of Malaysia Campus staff including the Provost, Vice-Provosts and deans of schools stayed up to take part — some until 2am. A UK colleague in the audience received questions on his mobile phone and was able to put three to speakers during different sessions, including one in the final session to the Minister for Universities and Science.

Feedback from staff at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus the following day was very positive. This conference on global higher education had particular resonance for staff at that branch campus and they appreciated being part, in real time, of events at the University — even when separated by timezones and 10,600km.

Speakers and delegates were drawn not only from academia, but also government and industry. Indeed, the mission of the Annual Dearing Conference is to allow those who value higher education the opportunity to shape the debate on its future. Neil Morris, Technology Vice-President for Refining, BP International Ltd, outlined how vibrant and innovative university business partnerships deliver mutual benefit.

— Ends —

Notes to editors
: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

More news from the University at: www.nottingham.ac.uk/news

Story credits

Tim Utton, Deputy Director, Communications, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 846 8092, +44 (0)7825 753953, tim.utton@nottingham.ac.uk.

Simon Butt

Simon Butt - Stakeholder Relations and Campaign Manager

Email: simon.butt@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 84 67156 Location: University Park

Additional resources

Watch all presentations and keynote speeches here.

A transcript of the Minister's speech is available here: http://tiny.cc/gzvea

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