University of Sheffield Vice-Chancellor addresses All Party Parliamentary Group on Foreign Affairs

18th July 2017

Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, this evening (10 July 2017) called for a rethink of higher education globally as he addressed the All Party Parliamentary Group on Foreign Affairs.

Sir Keith was approached by the cross-party body to speak to the parliamentarians on Education Reform and the challenges facing communities across the world. Reflecting on discussions with educational institutions, governments and companies in China, India, South East Asia and South America, Sir Keith described the global need for communities to develop education which supports local economies and productivity, but which also creates opportunities for the young to flourish. -From Brazil to India to China, people are desperate to find ways to lift the young people who will not be able to fly to the UK to study at a University like Sheffield or Oxford. I have also seen in my own home community in South Wales and now in South Yorkshire the need to rethink higher education so we provide the highest quality opportunities for young people without high-levels of debt. The communities may be different, but the desires of young people and their families for a better life are common across the world. Sir Keith who is President of the UK Science Council and the author of a report into Advanced Vocational Education used his speech to call for a fundamental rethink of 'a false divide between technical and academic education.' -As a scientist, I know that the idea that we separate the world into those who think and those who make is a terrible error. Many of the great breakthroughs in science and engineering are only possible because of the skills and understanding of those who can unite the mind with advanced technical experience. And in our modern world of AI and big data, what a nonsense it is to separate out peoples. Sir Keith called on the UK parliament to learn the lessons of those countries from whom he believes we have a lot to learn. -Germany is one it has always invested in a high-quality technical education and its industry and productivity speak of the results. It is investing in people, the skills of the future and its economy. Reflecting on his own experience as President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, he said: -This is something we are also taking seriously as we partner with global companies and their supply chains and, in doing so, we are opening up opportunities, high-skilled employment and access to higher education to young people who may have otherwise thought that University simply was not for them. We need to think in new ways about what Higher Education is for, and who it is for. Education can change lives, but our thinking needs to change with it for the good of all our children.

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