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HEPI blog - We need our brilliant modern universities to tackle the big issues of the future says Rachel Hewitt

04 Jul 2022

As featured in a blog post on the HEPI website today (04 July), Rachel Hewitt, CEO of MillionPus, reflects on the diverse nature of HE and why modern universities are key to addressing the big issues of the future.


'It has been almost a year since I joined MillionPlus, and it has been quite the year of higher education developments. To some degree, it would be easy to get caught up in the challenges in higher education and what they could mean for our part of the sector. Since last summer we’ve seen four Office for Students consultations on quality and standards, the outcomes of the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) Market Reviewcoming to fruition, consultations on research and innovation across England and Scotland and ongoing funding challenges on both sides of the border, including the recent announcement of, at best, a funding freeze in Scotland over the next five years as well as a continued fee freeze in England.

However, in the time I’ve been at MillionPlus, I’ve only confirmed my belief in the critical importance of the diversity of the UK higher education sector and the strength of offering among our modern universities. 

As well as responding to the many consultation and policy developments, since I joined MillionPlus I’ve been working on our strategy and considering our identity both as an organisation but also that of our collective membership. As part of this, I’ve been reflecting on what makes up the core ‘shared missions’ of MillionPlus institutions, considering not just what they do but also who they are. The conclusion I have reached is that MillionPlus member institutions:

  • are placemakers in their local area;
  • drive social mobility;
  • are forward-looking and responsive to change;
  • produce innovative, applied and translational research;
  • work collaboratively with business and boost the public sector workforce; and
  • deliver excellent teaching which provides the skills for students to succeed.

While there are challenges facing modern universities, I believe we shouldn’t underestimate how they can utilise these shared missions to face those challenges and reaffirm their position.