Young Universities Summit: new institutions ‘have global impact’

Outdated view that modern universities exert only local influence should be challenged, Hefce’s David Sweeney tells Barcelona event

April 6, 2016
People forming human tower, Young Universities Summit 2016
Source: Performance at the THE Young Universities Summit/Eva Guillamet
Wide reach: Hefce’s analysis of REF studies attests to the broad geographic impact of the research carried out at young universities

The long-held belief that modern universities have an influence only in their local areas should be consigned to history, one of the UK’s top higher education policy chiefs has said.

Speaking at the Times Higher Education Young Universities Summit at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, David Sweeney, director for research, education and knowledge exchange at the Higher Education Funding Council for England, said that some in the sector were still hanging on to the belief that former polytechnics served only their local communities, with older universities taking on the more prestigious role of producing nationally and internationally significant research.

But an analysis conducted by Hefce of impact case studies submitted for the 2014 research excellence framework showed that this perception was outdated and plain wrong, Mr Sweeney said.

“Our geographical analysis shows research from young universities had an impact all over the country,” Mr Sweeney said in a keynote talk at the conference, which is taking place from 5 to 7 April.

“The influence of this research clearly goes way beyond [the universities’] own regions,” he added.

However, there are still some voices in higher education that argue that modern universities have mainly a provincial role in which their focus is overwhelmingly about teaching students or researching local problems, he said.

“The idea that young universities only have a local research role is a significant barrier to overcome in some people’s minds,” he said.

Mr Sweeney, who oversaw the 2014 REF, also said that he did not believe the government was now seeking to concentrate research funding in a smaller number of research-intensive universities despite reports that some institutions are lobbying for this to happen under the next REF.

“Our clearly stated national policy is to fund excellence where it is found,” he said.

“Hefce’s line on [funding] excellence where it is found is the government’s line,” he added, saying that this has even been underlined in the annual grant letter from the government to Hefce on several occasions to emphasise the commitment to this policy.

Mr Sweeney also commended efforts by modern universities to foster links with industry, which in some cases had seen newer institutions create ties to business that are as good as, if not better than, those found at older universities.

“If you have enormous capacity and have been around for a long time, you are likely to have developed industry links,” he said. “However, places like the University of Strathclyde have caught up by investing heavily in [such] links.”

Matt Walker, customer consultant in research intelligence at publisher Elsevier, said that universities needed to make their expertise more apparent to industry if they wanted to increase these types of links.

“The perception is that everyone understands the structures in universities, but trying to find talent to work with is very difficult for industry,” he said.

“Finding an academic expert in Texas is sometimes easier than finding someone in the Greater Manchester area.”

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments


Print headline: Modern institutions ‘have global impact’

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Preceptor in Statistics

Harvard University

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Electrochemistry

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Research Positions in Nanotechnology

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Academic English Instructor

Nazarbayev University
See all jobs

Most Commented

Doctoral study can seem like a 24-7 endeavour, but don't ignore these other opportunities, advise Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman

Matthew Brazier illustration (9 February 2017)

How do you defeat Nazis and liars? Focus on the people in earshot, says eminent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt

Improvement, performance, rankings, success

Phil Baty sets out why the World University Rankings are here to stay – and why that's a good thing

Warwick vice-chancellor Stuart Croft on why his university reluctantly joined the ‘flawed’ teaching excellence framework

people dressed in game of thrones costume

Old Germanic languages are back in vogue, but what value are they to a modern-day graduate? Alice Durrans writes