Tuesday, 15 March 2011

JISC Conference opening sessions

I'm at the JISC conference in Liverpool at the moment, so I'll try to post about some of the sessions, but they may be a bit rough and ready as I type them straight into the iPad, which is balanced on my knee as I multitask between taking notes, blogging, tweeting and keeping up with the conference hashtag (#jisc11).

Good exhibition and networking session last night, lots of talk about what's happening in the sector, and what will happen to JISC following the recent review. The conference was opened by Malcolm Read, the Executive Secretary of JISC who referred to the period of great change we're now in.

Professor David Baker Deputy Chair of JISC gave the opening speech, welcoming the 700 delegates, and many more watching it stream live on line.
He outlined JISCs recent achievements in helping education leaders use technology to cut costs and increase efficiency. For example, for every £1 JISC spends the sector saves £12 through its advisory services and £34 through the work of jISC collections. They are also delivering efficiency gains through national collaborative purchasing and shared services. Other areas they are working in include providing a vision for resource discovery supporting the student experience and understanding researchers needs.

Obviously the recent Review of JISC was mentioned. He stressed the high regard in which JISC is held and lots of positive comments were made to the review group, especially around shared services, content collections and the network. But times are changing and JISC needs to refocus to meet the sectors needs. They need to be focused on achieving a large impact. They will be funded by a mixture of grants, subscriptions and user charges. They should become a separate legal entity and the governance arrangements need to be clarified.
Work has begun on implementation, and extensive consultation is taking place. It could take up to 18 months, but the "new JISC" should be clearer by this autumn, and there will be a shadow board in place by then.
4 key commitments and objectives for the future
Delivering a world class national infrastructure
Providing valued and valuable services
Innovating though programmes and projects

Next up was Professor Eric Thomas VC, University of Bristol talking about Universities 2011, the new world onwards.

He started with a bit of historical perspective. Until 1820, there were only 2 Universities in England, Oxford and Cambridge. Then in first decade of last century, the red bricks were built, including us. There were several other big expansions, in the1960s and 1992. So we've gone from very small system to big one rapidly. Compared to US where they were chartering universities from middle of 17th century. Our system is based on an elite, exclusive one but theres more inclusive.

In 1961 4.2% of 18 year olds went to University. In 2011 it is 44%. An order of magnitude change. Not fee even then as tax was higher.

Whatever happens, its important that the values and ambitions of HEIs must remain unchanged.
Vital that HEIs see themselves as educational and academic institutions, they continue to provide the public good aspects of uni education and we retain our values in the face of changes

The cuts, a history!
December 2009 £1b cut. Mandy's christmas card.
Followed in Spring 2010 by further £200m
In Jan 2011 VAT up to 20% which had a significant effect on Universities
Now teaching funding reduced from £3.9b to £700m. 80% cut in real terms.
So, has to be increase in funding.
Fees cap increased to £6000, or £9000 "exceptionally"
There's an Increased focus on Widening Participation
No upfront cost to the student
£21000 earrings threshold' after that will pay will pay £0.09 per £1 earned above 21k.
Still similar to 70s because funded from taxes then. But now we've entered language of fees and loans.
Paradigm shift. Funding for teaching cut, given to student via SLC for them to take to whatever uni and course they decide to go to.
Create a consumer led demand. Much more unpredictable.

There's an income gap. Unis financial years don't coincide with government financial year so we've had an in year cut already
Second gap, state funding wilt reduce at a faster rate than increase in fee income

So, the challenges are:
Admissions conundrum, will fee put people off going to university
Pricing. Don' buy most expensive camera a because it's better quality. So people won't think. A £9k fee is better quality. Hmm, not a lot of agreement with that statement in the room if the twitter stream is anything to go by.
WP, as yet unknown targets
Marked increase in student and parent expectations, especially for facilities.

University strength will be determined by:
Turnover and size.
Being in a population centre. Students going to local university.
Being highly sort after and in a popular location.
Attracting the best staff and students.
Working with student union esp on student experience.
Financially robust

An Excellent governing body will becoming increasingly important to assist the university to meet the challenges.

Implications. Period of immense uncertainly. Will need outstanding leadership in universities, not just VC, but all senior management.
Further diversification of the sector. Research concentration will increase.
More HE in FE.
Private providers, will increase in areas like business.
Institutional stress or failure?
Mergers and acquisitions, especially in big cities. Eg 44 separate providers of HE in London.
Maybe be return to non degree entry in some courses

good introduction to the issues, but not a lot about how ICT etc can help. he did say that one certainty is that JISC will still be around in 10 years time, no matter what other changes had taken place in HE. Discuss!

EDIT the video of these sessions are now available here, you need to install Silverlight (there is a prompt to do this), and using the i at the bottom left of the presentation select opening address and opening keynote

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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