VC's week - 11 February 2013 - Ministers, MOOCs, and medics

A regular update from Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Arthur.

Professor Michael Arthur

A hugely busy and varied couple of weeks saw me meeting David Willetts not once but three times, not to mention a chance encounter with Vince Cable!

Following the BIS/HEFCE round table on funding of home/EU postgraduate taught study*, my second meeting with our Minister for Universities and Science took place here on campus, when he visited the Institute of Process Research and Development (iPRD). Duly impressed with our fantastic facilities, he praised the way in which we’re connecting our scientific and research expertise with commercial applications.

Our third meeting was at a high-level exchange between the UK and Indian governments, to discuss skills, schools and higher education. The next phase of the UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) was launched, which includes 20 new joint projects, including one for Leeds. The Indian delegation was very interested in Massive Open Online Courses – MOOCs – and I spoke about why we decided to sign up to the Open University’s FutureLearn initiative. There’s plenty to say on this fascinating subject, and I’ll be giving more details about our planned involvement in March’s Reporter.

On my way to the UKIERI event, I literally bumped into Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. He was keen to tell me how pleased he was about the latest UCAS figures. They showed a national 3.5% increase in applications against last year’s figures – against a demographic drop of 2% – and more applications from lower income families than ever before. His enthusiasm to share this information with me and his stated relief at the outcome was a sure sign that government feels under some pressure in this area.

Back in Yorkshire, I attended the centenary of the Leeds Luncheon Club which was formed almost exactly 100 years ago by our then Vice-Chancellor Sir Michael Sadler. It’s a venerable institution which has welcomed prime ministers, clerics and professors but, unfortunately, has yet to welcome women to its ranks. I used my speech to urge them to consider their future membership rules and wilI watch with interest to see whether they take up my suggestion!  

Another event – a dinner for some 40 clinical academic trainees with NIHR clinical lectureships or academic fellowships, and their mentors – was hosted by Philip Quirke, Professor of Pathology, and Professor David Cottrell, Dean of the School of Medicine. It was an enjoyable evening and gave me the opportunity to meet these young people – who are the medical academics of the future - and pass on some advice that I hope will be of use to them in their careers. Their enthusiasm for the future was a sheer joy to behold and I wish them all well on their wonderful journey.


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*See VC’s week 28 January.

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