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The Social Role of Higher Education in UK Report


In order to understand the structure of higher education, one cannot ignore the crucial role played by the development and history context in which it exists. Higher Education differs widely among different societies, and as time progresses, it differs within the society. Higher education internationally has acquired an international flavor and a sense of diversity.

In addition to this, a remarkable degree has been achieved despite the systems of higher education being faced with difficulties and dilemmas. In the UK, the governance of higher education is based on four distinctive models that include collegial model, bureaucratic model, professional model, and political model (Enders and Fulton, 2002, p. 55).

These models emphasizes on relationship or interaction concept. The interaction and relationship concept may range between institutional management and academic guild to ministerial authority and institutional management (Enders and Fulton, 2002, p. 56).

Initially higher education was for the elite and was funded by generally taxing the mass population. This, though, is not the case now, as more and more people are participating thus the tax burden is shifted from the elite (McNay, 2006, P. 5 & 6).

According to McNay, tensions are ripe between the private and public lives of institutions. A liberal ideal is part of the commitment of the academic staff. According to a survey undertaken in 2005, seventy two percent of those questioned believed that the role of higher education is lost especially in regarding to critic and conscience of the society.

All in all, higher education in the United Kingdom is composed of various factors and attributes that define it. Its role is the society is crucial despite the numerous limitations that hinder it.

Roles of Higher Education

According to Watson, higher education has several crucial functions at its disposal to undertake. Some of these functions include selecting, qualifying, grading, socializing, and accrediting students and preparation of one’s life by instilling skills and knowledge.

The increase in percentage of adults in the higher education system means that some of the functions mentioned like socialization are destined to change. Diversification has been suggested as the proper route of installing privilege measure in case the confidence of higher education is put in question. The suitable diversification mode is within the university and not between universities (Watson, 1997, p. xix).

Globalization and sustainability

Political education history is incorporated with suspicion especially within the completion of ideological perspectives. In this role, students take a challenging position and act on ways of transforming the community in which they spend their daily activities on.

In addition to this, other students may view education on the perspective of creating effective and efficient workers. Globally, perspectives relating to the sustainable development of education are said to be installed with radical agenda.

Education plays a great role in the structuring functional skills and knowledge that spread out beyond the current educational subject at hand. In addition to this, higher education provides a set of values that changes the students to face the existing and the future problems facing the society and the various sectors of work that they operate in.

In the Dearing report of 1997, Brown and Jones indicate that the purpose of universities is to inspire and encourage individuals to structure their abilities to their maximum levels throughout one life. This will enable the students to achieve intellectual growth, equipments for future work, and obtain both effectiveness and personal fulfillment while dealing with the society.

The report also indicated that the universities have the role to play by increasing understanding and knowledge to the students for the sole reason of benefiting the society and the community at large.

Moreover, the needs of national and regional levels that pertain to sustainable and adaptable knowledge based are catered for by the universities. In concluding, the report also indicated the crucial purpose of universities in shaping an inclusive, democratic, and civilized society (Brown and Jones, 2007, p. 42).

Policy drivers

On reacting to the strategy document, “putting the World into a World-Class Education” the then Education secretary Charles Clarke indicates that the young people cannot be educated without incorporating the international perspective that is crucial in forming a real part in the learning experience attained.

On its part, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) indicates that higher education has a major role to play in achieving and developing sustainability. The sustainable development is notably a process where one can develop his capacity to live sustainably. In corporation of all people is vital with the involvement of the higher education considered vital.

In this case, the vital involvement of higher education is attributed to the fact that the graduates are destined to fill the vast leadership and managerial positions existing. Conclusively the role of higher education is regarded to far outweigh the sector size especially when considering its resources (Brown and Jones, 2007, p. 43 & 44)

Social entrepreneurship

Higher education institutions all over the world including the United Kingdom have taken broad steps in terms of quality and type of education they have been offering. One of the objectives involved is structuring of understanding and knowledge by use of experiences transformed within an appropriate environment. This hence will call for inclusion of various activities that reflect the dynamic environment of the person.

The character portrayed by the higher education not only provides a description on utilization of social entrepreneurship but also on how to flourish. According to Marriot (2008), modern organizations tend to undertake their activities in an entrepreneurial manner. This has led to the formation of entrepreneurial orientation that indicates a series of cases that focuses on organizational analysis.

However, the university’s focus and emphasis is said to contrast that of business urgencies and society’s audience. Practitioners insist on the output rather than process and the utility that would enable them utilize the knowledge for the sole purpose of increasing efficiency and profitability.

Although an argument may arise pertaining to possible transcending of the existing communication void between practitioners and universities, the fact remains that the better option of dealing with this issue is by increase promotion of entrepreneurship in higher education institutions.

A dynamic component is one of the educational contexts that is largely influenced by the student’s activities and has a high possibility of developing together with the real world environment. The component on presentation to the classroom is supposed to emulate the real world.

The university culture in the past did not support this component as it was inadequately developed in terms of entrepreneurial education (Marriot, 2008, p. 21).

Historical context

Arguments may arise as whether or not the UK higher education has undergone a great paradigm shift. The relationship that exists between business and university has always caused a debate over the years. It is the responsibility of the universities to play their crucial role in both the provision and shaping of the workforce, which is recognized as the main driving force behind the post war planning of the higher education.

In the post war context, Britain needed educational manpower and a stable educational system that could achieve more equality and social incorporation that existed before the war.

In the early 1980s, discussions revolved around the possible corporation between the existing businesses and the universities, working together to achieve greater development and improvements in technology, research, and teaching thereby fostering positive attitude towards enterprise.

This partnership between the universities and the businesses was also in the right track in tackling research agendas, as well as employability skills. Higher education system is supposed to be responsive especially to business needs by use of a coherent strategy (Howelett, 2010, p. 28).

Limitations of Higher Education

Qualification frameworks

Across the United Kingdom, the challenge posed by the qualification framework cannot be underestimated, especially when it comes to development of qualifications by credit. The national credit rating systems on the other hand has been undergoing a fast transformation; therefore, a large percentage of higher education provision is covered.

Distinctive features have emerged in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland of the higher education infrastructure. In England, the government reiterated its commitment to develop on the modern practice in credit transfer arrangements. However, there are two challenges that if not taken care of might end up proving to be a headache.

The first challenge deals with the restructuring of the of the higher education system. This is initiated by the Bologna declaration that sought to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA), common qualification criteria, and credit transfer mechanisms by 2010.

The second challenge has to do with the UK government’s move to enhance the conditions that have to be met before one can be awarded the prestigious title of university. Initially there was a requirement indicating that one had to possess the ability to support a postgraduate degrees research. This however is no more a prerequisite for attaining the title of a university (Page, 2006, p. 8).

Race equality

The UK government over the last five years has been improving its commitment of all-inclusive participation in the higher education sector. The Dearing report of 1997 can be attributed to these changes. It is until recently that universities were insulated from changes that questioned racism and upheld cultural diversity in all public sectors.

Despite all the measures put in place to promote ethnic and cultural diversity, the evidence obtained indicate that majority of the higher education institutions in the UK are not properly equipped to undertake the obligations that are required of them. Lack of adequate data used in establishing of benchmark and access the progress is one of the problems identified.

In addition to this lack of both methodological and conceptual tools used in assessing, reviewing and reconstructing the policies of education aggravate the problem more. The initiatives of all inclusive participation and race equality promotion also brings forth numerous challenges for the UK’s higher education, as the institutions will require an expanded institutional change.

In the past it was a tradition for the universities to cater for the whites especially the males, elitist, Eurocentric and masculinity culture. This in fact is still experienced today in some of the early-established institutions.

According to a study undertaken in 1999, it was revealed that the measures put in place for equality in higher education do not have a huge impact as expected in promoting all-inclusive participation and retaining of minority based student in the existing higher education institutions.

The good news is that the newly formed institutions have incorporated the widening participation easily as compared to the older established institutions (Allen and Bonous-Hammarth, p. 227 & 228).


A century has already passed since the great remarks spoken by the vice-chancellor of Liverpool that focused on removing of the social barriers. A lot has changed within the higher education circles in the past several decades. Yet despite the numerous efforts put in place that include wider participation in the higher education institutions, a lot is needs s to be done as we are not there yet.

Various levels of participation have been entrenched in the ever persistent and longstanding economic and social inequalities. A challenge to these inequalities means that there must be a middle core of all inclusive participation policy.

Economic injustices are tackled in these policies together with addressing the obvious insinuations that suggest that middle class values are the correct ones and therefore the new students incorporated in the higher education need to change instead of the institutions themselves.

Reference List

Allen, W. R. and Bonous-Hammarth, M., 2006. Higher education in a global society: achieving diversity, equity and excellence. London: ELSEVIER Ltd.

Brown, S., and Jones, E., 2007. Internationalizing higher education. NY: Routledge.

Enders, J., and Fulton, O., 2002. Higher education in a globalizing world: international trends and mutual Observations. MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Howlett, R. J., 2010. Innovation Through Knowledge Transfer. Berlin: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelburg.:

Marriot, N., 2008. The 3rd European Conference on Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Ecei 2008. London: Academic Publishing Limited.

McNay, I., 2006. Beyond mass higher education: building on experience. London: Open University press.

Page, K., 2006. British Qualifications: A Complete Guide to Professional, Vocational and Academic Qualifications in the United Kingdom. London: Kogan Page Limited.

Watson, K., 1997. Reforms in higher education. London: Cassell Wellington House.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Social Role of Higher Education in UK." May 1, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-social-role-of-higher-education-in-uk-report/.


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