Bristol UWE V-C speaks on the future role of universities

Issue date: 05 January 2012


Steve West

Social Science in the City™ series, Watershed, Bristol, Thursday 12 January 2012 at 18:00

Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol will give a talk at the Watershed as part of the Bristol UWE Social Science in the City seminar series on January 12 at 18:30.

Social Science in the City is a great vehicle for thinking about the role of universities in broader civil society. It is a public engagement initiative which began in partnership with Tart Café and Foodstore and it continues to attract regular attendees with varied backgrounds and experiences who themselves offer a vital contribution to critical reflection and debate following the research presented by speakers from UWE and its affiliates. The initiative is growing and it is particularly heartening that the university can offer both intimate café style discussions and bigger events which attract the contributions from a diverse range of high profile speakers whose thinking and practice plays an extremely important part in helping to shape our social worlds. It is fitting, given the remit of UWE's Social Science in the City, that we begin the 2012 series with a talk by our Vice Chancellor, Professor Steve West.

Professor West says, “The shape of the higher education system in England is facing radical transformation. At the core of the changes are a shift from public to private funding, a redistribution of student numbers away from mainstream universities, and no overall growth in the sector to meet areas of proven demand.

“As the sector works through these changes, we need to be clear, as a country, about the future role for universities that we are working towards. Universities have a clear vision for the future, the product of a long and successful history of adaptation to social and economic needs.”

Professor West will outline what he considers to be the five core components of the vision: “We need to maximise the talent-base of our society to develop graduates ready to seize on the opportunities of the global knowledge-based economy.

“We need to lead regional networks of innovation and knowledge exchange, connecting with industry, the professions and the public sector, across academic activities, to drive regional growth.

“It is vital that we provide civic leadership, moving beyond organisational needs to focus on the place or region.

“Universities will need to place greater emphasis on fostering international relationships and intercultural understanding, developing capacity in emerging markets and learning from and with our international partners.

“Finally we will always need to push boundaries and challenge our ways of thinking – independence from government and industry is essential for universities to maintain a critical voice.

“At Bristol UWE we are doing all of these things but the question we are left with is this. Will the current changes support the vision, destroy the vision, or prove to be insignificant in the face of a sector with a strong and flexible history?”

There will be ample opportunity to expand on and to discuss these issues with the Vice-Chancellor of the fifth largest University in the UK.

To book a place –www.uwe.ac.uk/socialscienceinthecity

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