New government needs to understand the true value of education and universities before it can solve UK's economic and societal problems

Socrates Karidis in a suit and shirt with a large brick and glass building in the background

Socrates Karidis, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and CEO of Coventry University London

University news

Wednesday 03 July 2024

Press contact

Press Team

Pro-Vice-Chancellor and CEO of Coventry University London, Professor Socrates Karidis, shares his views on the education and skills-related challenges currently facing the UK and the steps our new government needs to take in order to address them.

The continuously changing landscape of the higher education sector is causing unprecedented challenges. Universities across the country are prioritising organisational sustainability, with strategies varying widely.

Some are taking drastic measures to stand out, attract students, cut costs and diversify income, while others adopt a more conservative approach, focusing on their fundamental educational mission. Ultimately, the line between merely surviving and flourishing in this dynamic environment is becoming increasingly blurred. The effort to survive is no different than what is required to thrive.

So how do we move forward?

The new government must first recognise that we need a national, long-term ambition for higher education. We cannot afford to remain hostage to the view of every minister or be manipulated by the political manoeuvres of every administration. Their service is one governed by time, but education is not.

We must also have a vision; one which sits at the heart of a National Education Strategy and which recognises education as a cornerstone for both economic vitality and the cultivation of a modern, inclusive community. The value of education has and will always extend well beyond economic metrics; it is a dynamic force that enriches our national intellect, regional development and societal fabric. Furthermore, British universities are tasked with upholding their esteemed global reputation and a forward-thinking, innovative vision will support this ambition.

For too long we have been playing defence. As a sector we are supposed to be pioneers for the future, constantly looking to be expansive, creative and a main driver of economic growth. However, we are currently doing so in the face of challenges posed by market forces and too much, often unnecessary and usually short-sighted, government control.

Defence, therefore, has become the norm and we should be pleased with how we’ve adapted. By building resilience, continually advancing knowledge and imparting essential knowledge and skills we are continuing to create better futures for the local and global communities we serve, even as competition intensifies and the rules of engagement change.

Universities are a national treasure

However, change can also come from within. Despite the incredible things we do daily across Coventry University Group, for example, our ability to celebrate our successes remains a challenge. When we do, it is often inspired by the feverish competition currently engulfing the sector. Regardless, whether it be through widening participation, innovative approach to education and collaboration with industry or pioneering research, we have continued to be disruptors in our field and taken great strides to deliver tangible benefits to those around us. We should be proud of this and celebrate how we approach our role in society.

Like many universities across the UK, we have achieved all of this while on the backfoot. It should not be like this and, as a model, it is not sustainable. Universities are a national treasure and for every self-respecting nation, education should be the flagship that takes on the big problems, tackles societal issues and contributes to economic growth. They should be the foundation of forward progress and our answer to inequality, social mobility, prosperity and sustainability.

Their effect on society should be defined and our values of inquiry, debate and perseverance in learning and reaching one’s potential should not only be recognised and celebrated but adopted universally and become a goal for all. The new government must see this and take immediate action as part of any meaningful plan to address the clear issues our society is facing.

Find out more about Coventry University London.