On Thursday 7 June 2018, Jon Wakeford, UPP’s Group Director of Strategy and Communications, provided the opening speech at the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) annual conference.
The theme of the conference, which was sponsored by UPP, was ‘From Funding to Fining: Universities in the new age of regulation’ and included a keynote address from the Minister for Universities and Science, Sam Gyimah.
Opening the annual conference, Jon’s address highlighted the resilience and evolution of the UK higher education sector. He discussed the 20th anniversary of UPP’s first partnership and reflected on how the sector has evolved, as well looking ahead to the next two decades.
Jon explained that the importance of value for money, and the struggle to understandhow it looks in higher education, is a key focus of the sector. He cited HEPI’s Student Academic Experience research, which was launched at the conference, as an important step to understanding “value for money perceptions relating to campus infrastructure, accommodation and commuting students”.
Drawing on insights from Richard Florida’s book “The Rise of the Creative Class”, Jon explained that graduate retention rates are key to Universities expanding their role as economic and civic institutions: “Graduate retention is a crucial symptom of the economic prospects of a city – a driver of future growth, productivity and prosperity”.
Commenting on the strength and resilience of the sector, Jon explained that the role of UK universities should be “front and centre of the UK’s industrial strategy”. He also discussed the importance of a knowledge-based economy and highly-skilled workers and why it requires support and commitment from the Government.
Concluding his speech, Jon commented: “At UPP we are looking at the coming decades in higher education with excitement and optimism. We only work in one sector because we recognise UK HE for the global power that it is, as well as the driver of the knowledge and skills that will be the foundation of future economic success.
We establish long-term partnerships because we believe in the sustainable longevity of university business models and want to support institutions in achieving their goals and aspirations.
I hope by the end of the day, you too will share that optimism with me."