Wonkfest returns to Build Back Higher

Wonkhe's editor in chief Mark Leach introduces this year's Wonkfest - a chance for the sector to come together a forge a shared post-Covid agenda

Mark is founder, Editor in Chief and CEO of Wonkhe.

It’s been a year like no other, and with the pandemic’s endpoint coming over the horizon, we’re asking: what happens now? With planning for September already happening at pace, there’s a great deal to be done to make sure that the next academic year helps universities and students recover from this one. But as we come down from the peak of the crisis, the long-term recovery must also be kept in view.

Which is why over the coming months we are asking how the sector can Build Back Higher. What we mean by that is: what have we learned from this past year? What’s worked, what hasn’t, what should we keep in our practice and our policy? What needs to be ditched quickly as soon as society is reopened? We’re looking for practical solutions, big ideas, the unexpected and unintended consequences of the many decisions that happened at speed, the little things that make higher education special and the best of the sector’s ideas for the future. And it’s not all about us – universities will be central to the global recovery – and so we’re also hunting for ways that they can make the most difference as the world gets back on its feet.

We’re doing this through debate on the site on the Build Back Higher tag, exciting projects to be announced soon, and our ongoing series of events, and all brought together in a special Wonkfest to be held in June. We’re sad we still can’t be together in person for our fourth festival of higher education, but there’s much to discuss and with big challenges ahead, there’s an opportunity for the sector to come together virtually and plot the way forward.

We’ll have sessions about the changes that universities have had to make at speed – the leadership challenge,  the digital pivot, the many innovations in teaching, and the heightened awareness of health and wellbeing. Inspired by our amazing community, we’ll learn from some of the best ideas that have already shaped universities for the better this year, despite the circumstances. We’ll have journalists and politicians from outside the sector to help put it all in context. We’ll look to the next several years of higher education policy,  from skills to fees to quality, and try and work out what’s going to happen and how to influence it. And much, much more besides.

If you’re wondering whether Wonkfest is for you, the same is true this year as it is every year: the only thing that matters is that you care about the future of higher education. That’s why we have vice chancellors along with their SU presidents, academics on the front line of teaching and research, managers of every stripe, long-suffering administrators, externally facing wonks as well as those working deep under the bonnet of their university – and everything in between. Whether you’ve just started in HE or have been working in it for decades, you can be sure there will be something for you. Wonkhe’s editorial team will be there to help guide your way through it and help you take away the insights you need to take back to your profession and institution.

It will also be a chance to celebrate – the worst will be over and society on the brink of fully re-opening. Pubs, shops, restaurants will all beckon, as will the big reuniting with friends, family and colleagues. But please join us first to Build Back Higher at Wonkfest on 9-10 June.

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