Speaker: Rajay Naik, chief executive officer, Keypath Education, and former director of government and external affairs, Open University, UK
Chair: Helene Hellmark Knutsson, minister for higher education and research, Sweden
In his presentation, Rajay suggested a number of ways to both widen participation in higher education (HE) and make access fairer. High tuition fees are problematic because the psychology of generating a massive debt burden is bad. More positive messages are needed, as well as lower cost programmes, for instance by using online tools and developing apprenticeships. A credit transfer system would also represent an incentive, allowing students to “move around” more easily and addressing the high drop-out rate. Better ex-ante guidance at high school level is key to avoid “decision traps” and break the negative impact of peer conversations.
Helene agreed very much on the need to open up universities, but put a caveat on a consumer-based HE, referring to the fiasco of Swedish “free schools”. In the conversation, François Taddei observed that more research is needed on the role of universities in the 21st century and on the added value of the campus. For Rajay, the added value lied in being exposed to cutting-edge research, in the university’s brand and in the social experience. The discussion also furthered ideas around mentoring and role models for high school pupils of lower social backgrounds. Rajay suggested that universities should be asked to do more social engagement when they charge higher fees.
Rapporteur: Renaud Thillaye