The Commission on the Future of Higher Education in England – which has been launched by thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research – is being chaired by a Russell Group vice-chancellor with another four institution heads serving on the panel.
It aims to address how higher education should respond to the major challenges it faces over the next two decades and develop a “policy framework” that will strengthen its institutions.
Nigel Thrift, vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick and chair of the commission, which will run for 12 months and aims to publish a report in February 2013, said that the “profound changes” in the system made such a move important.
“Just as the Robbins, Dearing and Browne Reports took a step back to look strategically at the future of higher education, so this commission will examine the role higher education plays in our national life and address the key challenges it will face over the next 20 years,” he said.
The commission is the latest in a series of independent policy inquiries on higher education that have been launched in the last few weeks.
Earlier in the month, it was announced that an independent inquiry into postgraduate education was being set up by the Higher Education Commission.
Meanwhile, in January, it emerged that Will Hutton, the former Observer editor and principal of Hertford College, Oxford, would be chairing a commission looking at the effect of higher fees on students.
The IPPR commission aims to answer wider questions about higher education including how it can best help to promote sustainable economic growth, what the balance should be between market and state influence and how institutions should be governed.
It will also look at the relationship between other types of tertiary education like further education colleges and what mix of provision is right to serve an expanding student population.
The other university heads on the panel are Sir Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter; Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University; Rick Trainor, principal of King’s College London; and John Sexton, president of New York University.
Other members of the commission include Dame Jackie Fisher, chief executive of NCG – a training organisation containing two further education colleges with foundation degree-awarding powers - and Thom Arnold, president of the University of Sheffield students’ union.