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Professor David Cardwell

University of Cambridge

Title: The Future of Global Universities

This presentation will discuss the future of global universities within the evolving context of current international education systems. It will begin with an overview of the challenges posed to modern day universities by the breadth and diversity of international further education curricular between the ages of 16 and 18 and the accessibility of world leading universities to international students, in general. This will include discussion of the compatibility of higher education with further education, the communication of opportunities by universities to students, preparation for study in higher education and the wider decision-making processes that underpin undergraduate and graduate admissions more broadly. Likely potential future developments in the education of pre-university students will be discussed in the context of evolving curriculum, and the move to problem-based learning, and what it may mean for undergraduate admissions, in particular.

Having established potential global trends in further education, the implications for global universities and higher education will be discussed within the context of both teaching and research. Key to the future of global universities will be their response to education post Covid-19, the move towards on-line and hybrid teaching and reformation of established examination and assessment processes. Universities will need to place increased focus on widening participation, the teaching and learning of transferable skills, partnerships with industry and on subject-based innovation as we move to an environment-led economy. Metrics such as gender balance, ethnicity, employability and diversity of academic content will become increasingly indicative of good university performance as universities, inevitably, become more selective in the range in choice of courses they offer. There is likely to be increased demand for non-credit bearing courses, part-time programs of study, vocation specific masters course training, standardisation of qualifications and a potential decline in the number of doctoral students. This will lead, in turn, to wider collaborations between universities and industries to deliver sector specific training for graduate students.

Finally, the nature of research in leading global universities will be discussed in terms of engagement in increasingly large and collaborative, increasingly international projects, talent recruitment, the reduced need for physical travel and underpinned by artificial intelligence and the increasing need to address global warming.


David Cardwell is Professor of Superconducting Engineering and Pro-Vice-Chancellor responsible for Strategy and Planning at the University of Cambridge. He was Head of the Engineering Department between 2014 and 2018. Prof. Cardwell, who established the Bulk Superconductor Research Group at Cambridge in 1992, has a world-wide reputation on the processing and applications of bulk high temperature superconductors. He was a founder member of the European Society for Applied Superconductivity (ESAS) in 1998 and has served as a Board member and Treasurer of the Society for the past 15 years. He is an active board member of three international journals, including Superconductor Science and Technology, and has authored over 400 technical papers and patents in the field of bulk superconductivity since 1987. He has given invited presentations at over 70 international conferences and collaborates widely around the world with academic institutes and industry. Prof. Cardwell was elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2012 in recognition of his contribution to the development of superconducting materials for engineering applications. He was awarded a Sc.D. by the University of Cambridge in 2014 and an honorary D.Sc. by the University of Warwick in 2015.

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