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Universities will be in demand – Rev Coles and Prof Petford look to the future of education

News Page 27th May 2020

Universities will be in more demand than ever as humanity begins tackling the challenges of a post-pandemic world.

That’s the message from the University of Northampton’s Chancellor, Reverend Richard Coles, and Vice Chancellor, Professor Nick Petford.

The duo discussed the future of universities in a special show broadcast on NLive Radio, on Wednesday.

Listen to the show on the NLive website

The two-hour show revealed how Prof Petford and Rev Coles think the demand for new skills, technology and expert knowledge will grow, following the pandemic.

“The real challenge for universities, and this is one of the reasons why I’m proud to be associated with the University of Northampton, is that there is going to be a need for innovation, creativity and imagination following the pandemic, and it will be interesting to see how they mobilise to meet this demand,” said Rev Coles.

“There’s going to be an extraordinary demand for powerful thinking, and that’s why the universities, with their skills and knowledge, are going to be so important in how we respond to the new way of life.

“For example, universities are already playing a major role, in that they are helping to find a vaccine, testing it and will be helping to get it out into the community. Where would we be if we didn’t have academics doing that?”

Rev Coles added: “Then there’s the longer-term problems, the economic problems and the technological problems that the pandemic will bring. Skills and knowledge will be our salvation, I have no doubt.”

Prof Petford is pleased to see the way the University has already adapted to life in lockdown and is now looking to future ways of working.

He said: “I think that things will change permanently in the way we work at the University. Perhaps in the way we teach students, using far more technology based applications. There’s innovation in that approach, so I am sure this is something that is positive that is coming out of the situation we are now in.”

Prof Petford added: “We had universities in the UK for 700 years, so tradition is steeped into their DNA. Then, something like Covid comes along which means things that would have taken us, on a managerial timescale, months or even years to do, are being turned around in weeks. This is the new normal for universities, we can be more agile, in particular to meet students’ needs, the needs of the workforce and the greater population, and that’s going to be a good thing.

“We are in a good position to embrace the new world, as we have that fleet-of-footedness that will hopefully stand us in good stead.”

Rev Coles said: “It does seem to me that the University of Northampton is going to be very well-placed to play a really pioneering role in the adaption of a new way of working and using new technology.

“We have a new campus that was built for it, and the University has always been quick to respond to risks and opportunities.”

The show also saw Prof Petford and Rev Coles discuss their respective musical backgrounds – the former was in a South Coast punk band in the 1970s, while the latter found chart success with The Communards in the 1980s.

They also played songs that mean a lot to them, with the proviso that they must be upbeat, including tracks from Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Donna Summer and Soul II Soul.

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