Radical change warning

January 16, 1998

THE government is determined to "modernise and refocus" the higher education establishment, a conference on lifelong learning was told this week.

"If the government can sweep to power and change the status of the Bank of England in just two weeks, it can certainly have a go at education," the University of Central Lancashire's special projects manager, Bill Walmsley, told The THES on the eve of the conference.

Mr Walmsley, who organised the conference, warned delegates to prepare for a radical lifelong learning white paper: "If ever the time was right for universities to review their strategies, it is now."

Speakers from industry, such as Ian Grant from the British Aerospace University, warned that closer partnership between business and higher education was inevitable. Some delegates said they expected that the white paper would herald a new tax incentive or financial inducement for companies to set up "corporate universities", like BAe.

Mike Dyer, technical director at the privatised utility, United Utilities, said: "Business can offer higher education a test-bench of the real world."

He warned that there were "elements" in higher education "suspicious of being too behoven to industry". "I understand that," said Dr Dyer. "We need to know more about each other so we do not lose sight of blue skies research and academic freedom."

Dr Dyer called for changes to the research funding mechanisms to encourage more applied research, "to meet the needs of business".

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