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Universities are even more relevant in post-truth world

The Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia (UEA) told Presidency University that higher education institutes are more important than ever in a ‘post-truth’ world, as the Indian university celebrates its 200th anniversary.

Prof David Richardson’s keynote speech at the Global Education Summit is part of the bi-centenary celebrations at Presidency University in Kolkata on Monday. The university – one of the first to offer Western-style higher education in Asia – offers courses in the sciences, social sciences and arts and humanities.

As part of the commemorations this month, lectures will be given by Nobel Laureates Jean Tirole and Muhammad Yunus, as well as academics from Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the California Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkeley, Jawaharlal Nehru University and the National University of Singapore. India’s President Pranab Mukherjee and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address Presidency students on January 20, the 200th Founder’s Day.

Prof Richardson’s speech – ‘The future is with our students: Developing an entrepreneurial university around science and the humanities’ – will extol the efforts of higher education institutes to help students succeed in a rapidly changing world.

Prof Richardson said: “We need to do more to show the real value that universities bring both culturally and economically.

“As we in the UK prepare to leave the European Union, we know we face many uncertainties as our politicians begin to plan for uncharted waters. We will need to make the very most of the opportunities we are presented with. 

“But at the same time we cannot lose sight of the need to think deeply and clearly about the impact universities make and ensure our politicians, policymakers and our communities understand what it is we contribute.

“In a ‘post-truth’ age we need to show politicians and the public how it is that we enrich not only teaching and research but also the cultural and social fabric of the communities we work in.”

Focusing on social mobility and supporting the cultural, social and economic life of our communities, Prof Richardson said universities must encourage entrepreneurship and creativity to achieve positive change. At UEA, £40 million of innovation income has been generated.

“In the past the concept of entrepreneurship was, to a large extent, divorced from centres of academia, almost as if the attributes of the entrepreneur were not synergistic with the mission of higher education. This is no longer sustainable.

“To remain competitive, universities need to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship as well as creativity and global citizenship.”