CIHE's expansion to bring members to the fore

August 20, 2009

An organisation that aims to bring universities and industry closer together is rethinking its structure, putting its members - both academics and leaders of industry - at the heart of its operations.

In the past, the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) operated as a think-tank, with a small number of staff directing research and liaising with a membership of senior figures from both sectors.

However, David Docherty, who took over as chief executive in June, has drawn up plans for a more egalitarian "networking" model that will bring a more diverse membership to the fore.

In the past, membership was limited to vice-chancellors and chief executives, but now the CIHE will expand to include experts in areas such as marketing and human resources, too. "We will be looking to extend our network beyond vice-chancellors and begin to engage across the sector," Mr Docherty said.

"The council is a leadership network, developing solutions for some of the deepest problems facing the UK, whether that is the emergence of its next industrial base or the nature of productive research collaboration between business and higher education."

Mr Docherty said that expansion was essential for the council's future, but reassured members that its goals would remain the same.

"We will retain our focus on enabling individuals, universities, businesses and the UK to be globally competitive," he said.

While Mr Docherty has signalled what he believes to be a significant change in approach, one academic member of the CIHE, who asked not to be named, said he did not think that the "think-tank" and "networking" approach were mutually exclusive.

However, he added that, given their seniority, members of the council had been an underused resource in the past, and welcomed moves to bring them closer to the front line.

"The involvement of active practitioners, whether from industry, business, research or teaching, is to be welcomed," he said. "The issues the CIHE aims to address are too important to be confined to a restricted group, no matter how eminent."

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