1. When we issued our call for evidence in this inquiry
in November last year, our intention was to undertake a wide-ranging
study of the higher education sector. It is ten year since the
Dearing report and,
while we were not attempting a Dearing follow-up, we wanted to
make an assessment of how the sector might look in another ten
years time and what challenges it faces along the way. As we said
at the time:
"Higher education institutions (HEIs) are semi-autonomous
institutions which largely define their own purpose or purposes.
Nevertheless, it is appropriate for a government spending over
£7.5 billion [each year] on HE to clearly identify what it
wants from universities in return for this level of public investment.
In moving further towards a high-skill economy, an
increasingly international HE sector, an era of mass-participation
in HE, and a possible future market in fees after 2009, this inquiry
will investigate questions of first principles in HE: what is
the role of universities, what should the principles of funding
be, and what should the structure of the HE sector look like or
be shaped by?
2. We have already published one report, on the Bologna
Process for the development of a European Higher Education Area.
We had anticipated that we would produce at least two further
reports on various aspects of higher education later in the year.
The decision to split the DfES in two and create the Department
for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Innovation,
Universities and Skills, however, means that this Committee is
unlikely to continue in its present form. We have decided therefore
that it is important to report now on one part of the inquiry
which we have covered in some depth: the international aspects
of higher education.
3. We have taken a substantial amount of oral evidence
for the inquiry as a whole, and we are grateful to all of those
with whom we have held meetings. They are listed at the end of
this report. Those who gave evidence specifically on the international
aspects of higher education were Professor John Brennan,
Professor of Higher Education Research, Centre for Higher Education
Research and Information, The Open University, Professor Phil
Brown, Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance,
Martin Davidson, Director General, British Council, Professor
Bernadette Robinson, UNESCO Centre for Comparative Education
Research, University of Nottingham, Professor Alison Richard,
Vice Chancellor, University of Cambridge, Professor Georg
Winckler, Rector of the University of Vienna and President
of the European University Association (EUA), Professor Lan
Xue, Vice President of the Development Research Academy for
the 21st Century, Tsinghua University, China, and Tim Gore,
Director of Education for the British Council, India, and head
of the UK India Education and Research Initiative. We also received
75 memoranda, and we thank all those who submitted evidence.
4. The Committee undertook two overseas visits as
part of the inquiry: to Australia (Sydney and Canberra), as one
of the main alternative destinations to the UK for students from
overseas; and to China (Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing), as one
of the main exporters of students to other HE systems and as a
country which is rapidly developing its own HE sector.
5. We have been assisted in this inquiry by Professor
Janet Beer, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University;
Professor Alan Smithers of the Centre for Education and Employment
Research at the University of Buckingham; and Professor Sir William
Taylor. We thank them for all their work for the Committee.
1 Higher Education in the learning society,
Report of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education,
July 1997, Chairman: Sir Ron Dearing. Back
Education and Skills Committee press release, 3 November 2006. Back
Education and Skills Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2006-07,
The Bologna Process, HC 205. Back