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Role of Universities

September 10, 2008

Alison Richard, the vice-chancellor of Cambridge, responds to government pressure to broaden the student demographic, and while one may disagree with her rejection of the university’s mission to outreach beyond the traditional student pool, she is spot on about government “meddling”:

“We try to reach out to the best students, whatever their background,” she said. “One outcome of that is that we can help to promote social mobility. But promoting social mobility is not our core mission. Our core mission is to provide an outstanding education within a research setting.”

The government has pushed universities to collaborate more with business and industry in designing degree courses and exploiting the commercial benefits of their research.

Richard told vice-chancellors that universities were not the “handmaidens of industry” or “implementers of the skills agenda”.

“The risk is we are being asked to help fix industry’s latest technological problems. We can’t do that.”

Richard described universities as “hopelessly under-funded” and demanded more cash from government.

“There is a prevailing view in the UK that students, all students, are a source of income, not an investment in the future,” she said.

Hear hear.



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