What is 'University'?

Event Information

Share this event

Date and Time

Location

Location

Teaching and Learning Building

University Park Campus

University of Nottingham

Nottingham

NG7 2RD

United Kingdom

View Map

Event description

Description

This event is for academic and administrative staff, students and alumni of the University of Nottingham and asks:

  • What do you think is the purpose of a university?

  • What do you think it should be and might be in the future?

This is your opportunity to hear from senior figures with varying administrative and academic roles in the University of Nottingham, ask your questions, and share your views.

4 pm Afternoon tea and display of current students' videos of What is 'University'? - (Atrium, Teaching and Learning Building)

5-7pm Panel conversation, chaired by Prof Jeremy Gregory, FPVC for Arts:

  • Prof Shearer West, Vice-Chancellor

  • Prof Pam Hagan, Senior Tutor and Director of Student Well-being, School of Medicine

  • Dr Paul Greatrix, University Registrar

  • Prof Philip Moriarty, School of Physics and Astronomy

  • Mr Andrew Winter, Campus Life Director

  • Ms Stacy Johnson, School of Health Sciences and Deputy Hall Warden

  • Prof Peter Stockwell, School of English

What is 'University'? introductory video


The context

The university sector in England has changed significantly over the last few years, particularly since the introduction of tuition fees in 1998, following the Dearing Report, then the rise in fees to £9000 in 2012, following the Browne Report. The Government White paper, Success as a Knowledge Economy: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice (2016), the associated ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’, the Higher Education and Research Act (2017) which followed and now the much-anticipated Augar Review of post-18 education all serve to heighten levels of uncertainty about where the sector is headed over the coming years. These changes have generated many responses: for some, recent developments serve to confirm their worst suspicions about the future of English universities, while for others they are perceived as dragging these universities out of the past and equipping them for the realities of life in the twenty-first century. Two substantial books published in 2017 reflect something of the diversity of views: Stefan Collini’s Speaking of Universities and David Willetts’s A University Education portray the present university scene in markedly different ways and have major disagreements concerning what English universities could and should be in the future. Universities have, of course, experienced significant periods of change (often) in the past, but there are various factors that mean that the current situation (in England) is unprecedented:

  • There has never before been such a high proportion of the population attending university (though that number dropped post-2012).

  • There are more universities than ever before and that number looks set to continue to rise.

  • There is a greater diversity of kinds of institutions being given the title ‘university’ than ever before and this diversity looks set to increase.

  • Universities face (relatively) new pressures resulting from the prominence of league tables.

  • Many English universities feel they are competing not only with other English universities but with an ever-expanding number of universities elsewhere in the world.

  • Universities feel (and probably are) under greater scrutiny from Government, the media and society than ever before.

  • The question of who pays for students’ education is nothing new, but perhaps it is more in the public consciousness than ever before and generates more passion – on different sides of the arguments.

Given these factors and the various ‘narratives’ being told about universities, it seems that the time is ripe for
universities to consider afresh what they understand to be their raison d’être. Is there one thing – or a group of things – that characterise what a ‘university’ is, or, perhaps, what a university should be (and, if so, who determines the ‘should’)? Are there things that all the very diverse institutions in England which bear the title ‘university’ hold in common, or, again, should there be? (And then there are further questions about how this relates to universities elsewhere in the world.) Students are, of course, a vitally important feature (though far from the only feature) of English universities and there are significant questions about the role of students in universities and what they expect – and/or should expect – from the universities they attend, or, indeed, do not ‘attend’. Are there aspects of the student experience which are – or should be – common across all universities? Are there things that all university students should expect to achieve from (say) an undergraduate degree course, regardless of institution, discipline or course? Are there, for example, things which might usefully be described as ‘graduate characteristics’ that universities, Government, employers, society – and of course the students themselves – should be able to expect of anyone who has successfully completed a degree course? And, if so, is a university the best place to develop such characteristics? Further questions arise about the place of research in universities. Is it (now) essential for a university to engage in research? For whose benefit should such research be conducted? Who should fund such research? What should be the relationship between research and teaching in universities whether or not any particular university engages in both? And yet further questions arise about the relationship a university has (and should have?) with other parts of society, including its own local community … including, perhaps, other parts of the education sector.

These and many other issues are raised by the questions ‘What is a “university”?’ and ‘What might a university be in the future?’ This event will explore these questions. It will be in two parts. Part 1 will be student-focused: following some input exploring the past and present of English universities and thinking about their future, students will be tasked with creating a video of their choosing that represents students’ answers to the questions. These will be on display for part 2, which will be a cross-faculty ‘conversation’ around the questions for all members of the University. There will be brief presentations from staff representatives from different parts of the University, followed by a discussion between these representatives to which the audience will be invited to contribute. The intention is that this conversation will result in a product (perhaps a ‘Sway’) that will seek to capture the key themes emerging from the conversation and reflecting on ways in which the conversation might continue.

Date and Time

Location

Teaching and Learning Building

University Park Campus

University of Nottingham

Nottingham

NG7 2RD

United Kingdom

View Map

Save This Event

Event Saved