London HE week started on Monday 17 June with a fascinating and lively discussion hosted by PwC, exploring the theme of “Universities Under Pressure”. The expert panel represented viewpoints from across the HE sector: Amanda Broderick (Vice-Chancellor & President, University of East London), Nick Hillman (Director, HEPI), Carl Lygo (Vice-Chancellor & CEO, Arden University) and Ben Vulliamy (CEO, University of York Student Union).
Delegates discussed the plethora of current pressures on institutions and on the HE system itself, from market-drive competition, challenges drive by short-term and long-term demographics, changing regulatory requirements and a shift in student attitudes to Higher Education. A particular pressure on the HE sector noted during the meeting was the sheer volume of change that has taken place over the past two years, more in this brief timespan than over the whole decade that preceded it. As Nick Hillman stated: “with so much change in such a small space of time, no wonder Higher Education is under pressure.”
Given the current political climate, the meeting also identified the effect of public skepticism towards strongholds of power within society, of which HE institutions are often identified as one. It was agreed that it is vitally important to stop the corrosion of trust in traditional institutions. Moving forward, the group noted the importance of inviting students to join conversations and have an intentional voice in the decision- and plan-making processes across universities, in order that there can be a greater collaborative approach to moving forward through the pressures and challenges of today.