My week - 18 November 2013 - immigration and government consultations

A regular update from Vice-Chancellor Sir Alan Langlands.

Sir Alan Langlands

Since taking up post at the University earlier in the autumn, I have been pleased to leave the political and national policy and funding dilemmas of higher education behind.

However, two issues that may well affect our future students have been eating away at me. The first is the latest Immigration Bill, now in the Commons’ Committee stage. The Government’s approach to immigration in recent years has been damaging for higher education. Now we have new proposals which would require landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants; the introduction of a new NHS surcharge for visa applicants; and proposals which would remove appeal rights for in-country applications for Leave to Remain.  Universities UK and the NUS are campaigning to modify these proposals and they deserve our support.

The second issue concerns two Government consultations on the reform of A-Levels. The first by the Department of Education seeks views on the outcome of a review led by Mark Smith, the Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University and subsequent work undertaken by Awarding Organisations to translate his recommendations into changes to the A-Level and AS-Level subject content criteria in a range of key subjects. The second consultation from Ofqual asks for feedback on the proposed regulations for qualification design and assessment arrangements for the new A-Level qualifications and the regulatory requirements that all exam boards offering A-Level must meet. It is important that we keep on top of this, and Senate will consider the possible effects of changes in AS and A-Levels and the wider implications of the reform of the secondary schools curriculum at its next meeting.

Closer to home, my week was punctuated by stimulating visits to the Schools of Biology and Music and a brief discussion with the Russell Group Universities’ Finance Directors who were meeting in Leeds. On Thursday evening, I attended the CF Lunoe Trust Lecture in the School of Civil Engineering, an opportunity to congratulate the student prizewinners and to listen to a compelling talk from representatives of Arup, including a Leeds alumnus, on the development of the new Leeds Arena in a constrained City Centre site, close to a major road and residential accommodation. With a planning restriction to maintain sound emissions at less than ten decibels, the engineers triumphed by ensuring that Bruce Springsteen was pitch perfect at full sound inside the 13,500-seater arena and unheard outside.

Another highlight was an International Symposium on Health Innovation at Weetwood where I was given the opportunity to link up with some old friends and to contribute, alongside colleagues from NHS England, the health professions in Leeds and Leeds City Council, to a discussion about establishing Leeds as the UK’s first health and innovation city.  The intention is to transform the City region’s approach to inward investment by setting out distinctive positions in medical technology, health and social care informatics and the importance of engaging communities on questions of health improvement and the provision of integrated services. Against a background of an ageing population, a public focus on the quality and safety of care, and new technologies which can improve diagnosis and treatment, the University has a responsibility to play a strong role in this initiative and of course it dovetails well with our own strengths and aspirations in translational medicine.

The day ahead promises “The Biggest Leeds Student Forum Ever” in the Riley Smith Hall and I very much look forward to this.

Sir Alan Langlands_signature

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