2 days / 40 speakers
Be inspired

26 – 27 June 2019


We will continue to update our programme of workshops, lectures and events. Keep an eye on this page, and join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook to be the first to know.

Festival of Higher Education is the biggest yet

The third Higher Education Festival, held at the University of Buckingham, was the largest and most successful of the annual event to date.

More than 50 speakers over the two days discussed the most important issues currently facing the higher education sector, with talks on mental health, artificial intelligence, social mobility and more.

Opening the second day was Sam Gyimah, Minister for Universities Science, Research and Innovation, who spoke in conversation with Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, on a variety of topics such as free speech in universities and that tech companies should have a duty of care for their social media users.

James Murray, whose son tragically killed himself at Bristol University, spoke movingly at the event unveiling his pledge to help prevent suicide through a number of measures. He wants data protection to be relaxed to allow universities to alert parents if their child displays in any way that they may be suffering with a mental health problem. He spoke alongside author of That Was When People Started to Worry, student Nancy Tucker, talking searingly honestly about her own problems with eating disorders and mental health.

Speakers included:

  • Sir Anthony Seldon – Vice-Chancellor, University of Buckingham.
  • Mary Curnock Cook – Independent Educationalist and Former CEO of UCAS.
  • Stephen Tierney – CEO, Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust and Chair of the Heads Roundtable.
  • Bill Watkin – Chief Executive, Sixth Form Colleges Association.
  • Carl Cullinane – Research and Policy Manager, The Sutton Trust.
  • Joan Deslandes – Head teacher of Kingsford Community School and co-Founder and Governor, London Academy of Excellence.
  • Sir Kevan Collins – Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation.
  • Claudia Harris – Chief Executive Officer, Careers and Enterprise Company; Geoff Barton – General Secretary, ASCL.
  • Professor Damien Page – Dean of The Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University.
  • Ellen Wilson – Vice President Higher Education Services, Pearson.
  • Rt Hon David Willetts – Executive Chairman, The Resolution Foundation.
  • Clare Marchant – Chief Executive, UCAS; HMC Rep HE.
  • Lord Andrew Adonis – Author and Campaigner.
  • David Goodhart; Head of Demography Policy Exchange and Author.
  • Ant Bagshaw – Deputy CEO, WonkHE.
  • Roxanne Stockwell – Principal, Pearson College.
  • Sir Michael Barber – Chair, Office for Students.
  • Duncan Piper – Director, Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology.
  • Ryan Craig – Managing Director, University Ventures.

Topics discussed:

  • Curriculum; The Substance of Education – Is it fit for Purpose?
  • Social Mobility; Can Schools do more to improve social mobility and access to HE?
  • Raising the Quality of Teaching in Schools and Higher Education; Research informed Practice and Professional Development.
  • The Transition from School to Training Work and Higher Education.
  • Mental Health and Well Being in Schools.
  • Artificial intelligence – can it truly create a better learning experience?
  • Fair Funding – is the current model sustainable and are students getting value for money?
  • Is the Admissions Process to Universities fit for purpose?
  • Pearson Education Debate; Future skills: equipping today’s students for success in tomorrow’s jobs.
  • Improving the Quality of Teaching in HE – The Role of TEF
  • Non-Traditional Routes in Higher Education.
  • Fair Regulation in Higher Education – Are we getting the balance right between producers and Consumers?
  • Blue Sky Thinking – New Models for Delivering Post 18 Education and Training.

Two mini HEPI debates discussed whether academic selection is wrong and 11 and still wrong at 18, as well as whether it would be of public benefit for far more people to go to university. Some of the most burning issues in higher education were put under the microscope in a question time with Claire Fox, Director of the Academy of Ideas.

Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, said: “This was the best yet. There was a phenomenal range and calibre of speakers and we had some really important debates. The issues have been picked up by the media and followed up in a number of ways which will help with shaping the future of HE. We are looking forward to building on this year’s Festival to have even more stimulating discussions and an even wider breadth of speakers next year. Huge thanks to our sponsors Pearson and Sir John Cass’s Foundation.”

Keep up to date with stories and podcasts from this year event and next year’s announcements on our website: and twitter @HEFestival


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *