6 March 2013

New report celebrates 21 years of modern universities

University think-tank million+ publishes ‘Breaking with Tradition: Universities@21’, a pamphlet marking the 21st anniversary of the Further and Higher Education Act which extended university title to higher education institutions throughout the UK.

Breaking with Tradition: Universities@21 is a collection of 11 reflections from politicians, Vice-Chancellors and former students, including Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts MP.

David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said:

"John Major's Government was on the right side of history when it passed the Further and Higher Education Act in 1992. The polytechnics had made a deep impression through their focus on the student experience, innovative patterns of learning and hands-on engagement with employers. They would have been called universities elsewhere in the world and so the binary system was ripe for change by 1992. The strength and diversity of today's higher education sector reflects the continuing success of modern universities. It is right to mark the 21st anniversary of the change in status by celebrating the institutions' current success."

Other contributors include Sadiq Khan MP, Shadow Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, who studied at North London (now London Metropolitan) University and said:

“As a graduate from a ‘modern’ university, I was extremely lucky to attend an institution with fantastic teaching staff, a brilliantly diverse student body placed right in the heart of the best city in the world.

“More than ever modern universities are competing as some of the very best in this country, because they are able to offer much more than just prescribed syllabuses. They offer a wealth of diversity that is unrivalled in their more established counterparts. I will always continue to champion modern universities.”

Lord Alan Howarth and Lord Tim Boswell who were, respectively, Ministers prior to and after the 1992 Act was voted through Parliament, have written about their experiences and provide their assessments of the rationale for and the impact of the legislation.

Former and current Vice-Chancellors’ contributions include Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of Bristol University and President of Universities UK, who says in Breaking with Tradition:
“Each university is unique … [and] the combination of such diversity, especially following the 1992 Act, has created the single best higher education system in the world when judged on personal and public, social, intellectual and economic return on society’s investment in it. We should be rightly proud of that and celebrate it loudly”.

Commenting on the contribution of modern universities in Breaking with Tradition, Neil Carberry, Director for Employment and Skills, CBI said that: “The class of 1992 have graduated as a diverse set of institutions, fostering employer relationships as varied as the universities themselves. Modern universities play a key economic role in supporting changing business demand for degree-level skills and emphasising collaboration in research. Innovating and enterprising, the CBI sees these institutions as central to the growth agenda and a vital part of the business community.”

Pam Tatlow, Chief Executive of the university think-tank million+ said:
“The range and high quality of the universities available to today’s students are the direct result of the 1992 Act which was a far-sighted piece of legislation. Without question it changed universities in the UK for the better, boosted innovation, opportunities and creativity and promoted social cohesion. The faith shown by MPs in 1992 in the power of higher education to change people’s lives is a valuable lesson to today’s parliamentarians as they consider how best to invest in Britain’s future”. 

Other contributors in the pamphlet are: Dr Peter Knight, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Central England (now Birmingham City University), 1992 -2006; Professor Peter Fidler, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sunderland, Professor Christine King, Vice-Chancellor of Staffordshire University, 1995-2011; Dr John Moss, Dean of Education at Canterbury Christ Church University, Dr Malcolm McVicar, Vice-Chancellor, University of Central Lancashire, and Gemma Tumelty, NUS President 2006-2008 and the first NUS President to graduate from a modern university.


Notes to Editors
1. million+ is a leading university think-tank, working to solve the complex problems in higher education www.millionplus.ac.uk. For more information please contact Jean Candler, Head of Public Affairs on 020 7717 1659 or 07900 277 819.
2. A reception launching the publication is taking place in the House of Commons on Wednesday 6 March, hosted by Sadiq Khan MP.