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HEPI celebrates 20 years as HE think tank

The challenge of remaining a world-leading country delivering higher education and impactful research is getting more competitive, delegates were reminded at an event in London to celebrate 20 years of the UK independent HE think tank HEPI.

"Universities remain transformative of people's lives" - HEPI trustees chair Sally Mapstone at the HEPI 20th event

"Last year, China produced more articles than the EU 27 combined"

Dame Sally Mapstone was one of four speakers who set out the context for HEPI’s work over 20 years – a challenging landscape where funding remains a live issue and global competitors are building up their research credentials.

She introduced a book (also available online) with a series of essays focusing on policy and debate over the last 20 years.

“As we continue to hold our breaths in relation to Horizon Europe, UK research has boomed creating important benefits for society and communities on a global scale,” she said. “At the same time, the sustainable funding of both teaching and research has become and remains really vital, as a conundrum,” she said.

Praising the work of HEPI, Nick Fowler, chief academic officer at Elsevier, also referenced the rising research might of other countries.

“Last year, China produced more articles than the EU 27 combined,” he said, adding that India is now performing above the global average for research output.

“And as geopolitical tensions intensify, leveraging the funding and human capital of other nations is not as straightforward in the UK as it was a decade ago.

“So for the UK to navigate its challenges, to capitalise on its strengths, we must work together as government,academics, as industry, across our boundaries. We all have a role to play.”

HEPI has been responsible for much important research work including the recent valuation of the financial contribution of international students in the UK at £42 billion, produced with UUKi and Kaplan International Pathways.

Former universities minister, David Willetts, also spoke about his role in introducing a tuition fees model at the event and the work of Lord Jo Johnson was referenced in tabling an amendment to a Lifelong Learning Bill which would enable high quality universities (as per TEF) to raise fees in line with inflation.

Johnson told The PIE, “The current impasse is creating a situation in which we are systematically defunding our universities, depriving the engines of our knowledge economy of the fuel they need to offer great teaching and world-class research.”

The chairman of FutureLearn also noted in his speech in the Lords, “As far as I can tell, a lot of effort is going on across all parties to work out how to say as little as possible about higher education funding ahead of the next general election.

“The amendment seeks to force the debate into the open and to flush out the extent to which the Government—and Opposition parties—are seriously engaging with this issue before the crisis in funding takes a further turn for the worse.”

A photo gallery from the event is linked here.

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