Changing environment demands collaboration

September 29, 2000

Britain's university system is set for the sort of change already accelerating in further education, as the near-merger between Bradford and Leeds Metropolitan makes clear (page 64).

Such collaborations can raise the performance of both institutions, broadening the range of the smaller and adding lustre to the larger. But despite assurances, the process is likely to be painful. One of the incentives for mergers is that they make restructuring easier, and restructuring is becoming a pressing matter as institutions try to free resources to meet new demands. Overall, higher education in the 21st century will need more people, not fewer. But there are real questions about the skills staff will need, as Chris Lonsdale and Barbara Gorayska point out (page 41); about training to help people adapt; about the distribution of specialist courses round the country; and about the funding to pay the bills.

University managers have spotted in regional development agencies and learning and skills councils the potential for help with these matters. RDAs in particular will be big enough to play a role in helping institutions adapt to changing needs without the human misery and waste that will be involved if each institution seeks its salvation in isolation.

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