Degrees of success

AT a time when higher education is in a state of flux, and with economic considerations governing the decisions of almost every prospective student, it is reassuring that one of the region’s leading universities has won a prestigious award through returning to its traditional values.

According to The Times Higher Education Awards, Sheffield University has been named University of the Year precisely because “it had the courage, in a climate of financial uncertainty, to go back to its roots and focus on the values of a civic institution: serving the people and the economy of the city”.

Of course, no university could win such an accolade without also having an excellent record in teaching, research and business performance, but the fact that these have all been strongly oriented towards its South Yorkshire heartland is highly significant.

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Even though the increased tuition fees do not have to be repaid until graduates have their own incomes, the perception that university is becoming a huge expense is a growing one and a major factor in more and more students choosing to attend a university near their home.

That Sheffield is working with this trend – and developing flourishing business partnerships in a region that has suffered more than its fair share of economic blows in recent decades – is admirable indeed.

Of course, having developed such an impressive track record, the challenge is to maintain it. But all the indications are that Sheffield University, in successfully combining a global reach with a local outlook, has what it takes to achieve this.