A vision for 20 years: the learning society
Our title, Higher Education in the learning society, reflects the vision that informs this report. Over the next 20 years, the United Kingdom must create a society committed to learning throughout life. That commitment will be required from individuals, the state, employers and providers of education and training. Education is life enriching and desirable in its own right. It is fundamental to the achievement of an improved quality of life in the UK. 2.
It should, therefore, be a national policy objective to be world class both in learning at all levels and in a range of research of different kinds. In higher education, this aspiration should be realised through a new compact involving institutions and their staff, students, government, employers and society in general. We see the historic boundaries between vocational and academic education breaking down, with increasingly active partnerships between higher education institutions and the worlds of industry, commerce and public service. In such a compact, each party should recognise its obligation to the others. 3.
Over the next 20 years, we see higher education gaining in strength through the pursuit of quality and a commitment to high standards. Higher education will make a distinctive contribution to the development of a learning society through teaching, scholarship and research. National need and demand for higher education will drive a resumed expansion of student numbers - young and mature, full-time and part-time. But over the next two decades, higher education will face challenges as well as opportunities. The effectiveness of its response will determine its future. 4.
That future will require higher education in the UK to:
encourage and enable all students - whether they demonstrate the highest intellectual potential or whether they have struggled to reach the threshold of higher education - to achieve beyond their expectations; o
safeguard the rigour of its awards, ensuring that UK qualifications meet the needs of UK students and have standing throughout the world; o
be at the leading edge of world practice in effective learning and teaching; o
undertake research that matches the best in the world, and make its benefits available to the nation; o
ensure that its support for regional and local communities is at least comparable to that provided by higher education in competitor nations; o
sustain a culture which demands disciplined thinking, encourages curiosity, challenges existing ideas and generates new ones; o
be part of the conscience of a democratic society, founded on respect for the rights of the individual and the responsibilities of the individual to society as a whole; o
be explicit and clear in how it goes about its business, be accountable to students and to society, and seek continuously to improve its own performance. 5.
To achieve this, higher education will depend on:
professional, committed members of staff who are appropriately trained, respected and rewarded; o
a diverse range of autonomous, well-managed institutions with a commitment to excellence in the achievement of their distinctive missions. 6.
The higher education sector will comprise a community of free-standing institutions dedicated to the creation of a learning society and the pursuit of excellence in their diverse missions. It will include institutions of world renown and it must be a conscious objective of national policy that the UK should continue to have such institutions. Other institutions will see their role as supporting regional or local needs. Some will see themselves as essentially research oriented; others will be predominantly engaged in teaching. But all will be committed to scholarship and to excellence in the management of learning and teaching. 7.
Higher education is fundamental to the social, economic and cultural health of the nation. It will contribute not only through the intellectual...
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