What is a 'University'? What are we Preparing our Students to Progress into?

  • Doug Ingram University of Nottingham
Keywords: university, diversity, unity, academic, vocational, student numbers, Russell Group, pre-92, post-92, new universities, number of universities, universities in England, history of universities in England, idea of a university, what is a university


This article is part of an ongoing project exploring people’s perceptions of what a university is, what it should be and what it might be in the future. The bulk of the essay looks back at the history of universities in England, drawing out a number of ‘tensions’ that have characterised that history. It then conveys the results of a survey exploring the views of attendees at the Foundation Year Network Annual Conference in July 2018 (entitled, ‘Unity and Diversity in the Foundation Year Experience’) about what a university is and should be. These results are then related to the themes that arise from the historical overview which lead to some brief conclusions – primarily that we should celebrate the diversity within the English university system while seeking to identify the things that unite us and foster that unity.


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Author Biography

Doug Ingram, University of Nottingham

Doug is one of two dedicated members of staff who run the Arts Foundation Year at University of Nottingham. This is a new venture which this year enrolled its third cohort of students. Previously Doug taught Old Testament/Hebrew Bible at a number of different colleges and universities, including some adjunct teaching in California and Sri Lanka. Doug has been on the Foundation Year Network Executive Committee for two years, the second of these as Secretary (and he continues in this role). He is one of the founding editors of the Journal of the Foundation Year Network. Doug can be contacted at: doug.ingram@nottingham.ac.uk.