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Drive for change

Chris Millward suggests ways to unblock the university superhighway

Thanks to rail strikes, many of us have spent more time than expected on the roads over the past few weeks, which may find echoes in the coming year for higher education. Working in a 21st-century university can feel much like driving around a complex road network, requiring navigation between different disciplines, modes and levels of study and between partners locally, nationally and internationally—plus frequent lane changes between education and research, indeed often straddling the two.

In England, the expansion of higher education has increased its size, diversity and complexity. Universities and government met the increase in tuition fees 10 years ago—and the removal of student number controls that followed—with a mix of anticipation and trepidation. University leaders looked forward to greater freedom and ministers to the rigour of the open market, but both were also concerned that volatility could threaten some universities’ sustainability.

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