Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Futures forum, two panels

Panel on Student experience and expectations

Aaron Porter, President NUS

One of the most pertinent questions institutions should be asking. How might expectations shift going into this new landscape where contributions have shifted. Student satisfaction currently high. Students do value the experience and the quality of what they're getting. Two areas will come under increased focus. Employability. They want a route into employment. Second is a cruder analysis of what are we providing in terms of value for money. Different to are they satisfied. There's been a large concentration on things like contact time. Needs to be taken further, into different areas. Induction is critical. Talk to new students about what they expect to get, and how they should direct their learning. Issue of PG profession also needs examining. We need to make the case about why PG is important. Browne ignored it. Also need to tackle head on the notion that students are consumers. They're not. They have consumer traits.

Phil Jones, VC, Sheffield Hallam University
At SHU, experienced Browne report and subsequent discussions as a trauma. Can make it work, but was a traumatic period for all, for staff, students, prospective students, parents. Then start planning for future. Both Sheffield unis set up 2012 projects. Looked at costs, WP, defining the offer. Defining the offer was a core part of that period, and the offer is much more than the access agreement. Looked at a lot of data, including NSS data. Has an impact on student behaviour, and in departments. Employment data also important. Talking to students, working with focus groups.
Difficult to know what impact will be.
When Phil appointed to UoS in 90s ran Legal Practice course where fee was £5k. Students didn't really act as consumers.
What happens in curriculum, in city, in sport, in clubs etc. all vitally important in student experience. All contribute, and may be more important than finance.

Lori Manders, Director of Development , UCL.
Converting students to alumni. Alumni very important to institution. Can be ambassadors, employers, mentors. Relationship starts right at beginning, even from first enquiry or contact, and if managed properly it can be a successful lifetime relationship. Alumni can help with employability, and enrich students' experience. With increase in fees, will stop giving? Not the evidence in US. Also students possibly will value education more if paid for it. Need to get alumni involved with current students from beginning.

Questions on employabilty. Need to find opportunities for students to pick up skills using placements, internships etc. What about assessment methods, why do we still sit students in a room and make them write for 3 hours, why don't we make assessment methods more relevant to the work experience? Accessibility and visibility of careers services needs improving. Make them available to alumni so can provide career progression advice for life.

Panel on Linking financial strategy with sustainability

Andrew Wathey VC Northumbria University

Challenges are meeting student expectations, decisions on less popular courses, ensuring demand is stimulated. Under the new finance system we mustn't get rid of life chances for prospective students. Research will be more important for reputation, but there's less money in it. Increased selectivity will make us rethink model for sustainability. There are reputational challenges. We need to rethink split of T and R, which currently doesn't reflect the symbiosis of T and R funding. Need to generate cash to generate capital or meeting expectations on campus quality will be difficult.

Shared services, LEAN processes will all be important. Delivery of courses may need looking at, including ultra low contact hours and delivery in same way it's always been done. Should we record lectures and concentrate staff time on small groups teaching?

Competition and collaboration will have to go hand in hand. Will be increased global competition for students.
Institutions are unlikely to go under, but will have to change their business model.

Paul Greatrix, Registrar Nottingham University

Facing time of significant cuts. Path not clear. Moving from supplier led to demand led model. Old models may still be able to deliver and survive, but challenge is sustainability. Have to find enough money and people to do what we want to do. Will be new market opportunities. Have to build relationships and access different resources. Institutional culture has to be tuned to saving money and making money. Will require good leadership. Have to remain optimistic and focus on the key goals, have to seize the day and make sure it happens for us.
Cultural shift. At some Unis making money is something somebody else does. Everyone has to understand money, understand the cost and value of things.

Good Question on whether management teams are up to the challenge. Are they too academic? Should we have more people with non academic backgrounds.?
Need right blend of academic leadership and professional support. Tactful answer!

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