The Civic University Commission will examine evidence from a wide range of sources, including public opinion, expert witnesses and historical and current research, to understand how universities operate and how they can serve their place as well as play a global role.
For Richard Brabner, director of UPP Foundation, some soul-searching was needed for the sector.
“High pay, value for money, academic standards, the tertiary funding review – universities have been making headline news in recent months and not all for the right reasons,” he told The PIE News.
“There is still work to do convincing people from all backgrounds that the international aspects of universities benefit their city”
“In a time when the sector has been questioned like never before, it needs to not only demonstrate, but really consider and evaluate the economic, social and civic impact it does and should make on the places they are from.”
The Commission, he explained, needs to help the sector shape its civic role and develop collaborations between universities and local partners.
“We need to think about how universities develop the right relationship with the people around them,” he said.
One of the areas the Commission will investigate is how international activities, such as recruitment, TNE or research collaborations, support the universities’ local communities.
Although it’s too early to make a forecast on the results, Brabner told The PIE that internationalisation is one of the aspects that allows universities to serve their place in the 21th century.
“If you look at the recent HEPI research on the economic impact of international students per constituency this is evidently the case. It is also pretty well understood by universities’ local communities,” he explained.
According to a poll of over 1000 adults across 10 English cities conducted by YouGov for UPP Foundation, bringing in international students was ranked second as the best way universities can benefit their local community – the first was research. Results varied, with metropolitan cities feeling more positive about the international role their universities play.
“There is still work to do convincing people from all backgrounds that the international aspects of universities benefit their city,” Brabner said.
But do universities need to find a balance between their local and global role, or are the two complementary? This, Brabner said, will be a key question the Commission will be asking.