It’s not about the money: real international impact

Genuinely international- Going Global 2014

Universities have had an international outlook since the beginning. Whilst some aspects of internationalisation have moved on since the middle ages some principles remain clear. Including the need to look beyond income generation as a motive. As part of Going Global 2014, the British Council’s international HE conference, I’m involved in a workshop session on “Internationalisation – practice and rationales”:

 

The workshop will start with an outline of the key trends in internationalisation and two reviews of international strategy at a university level. The primary activity during the workshop will be a Cafe Scientifique. Workshop attendees will participate in a range of deep-dive explorations around key themes in internationalisation bought to life though practitioner led discussion. Topics for roundtable discussion will be drawn from topics including: partnership development, joint initiatives, online learning, student recruitment, communication strategy, liaison offices, regional specialisation and diverse forms of transnational education.

42_going_global_2013_1981

Each of these discussions will begin with a description of an internationalisation practice at a university along with the strategic rationale for that activity. From this starting point, an interactive discussion can explore this practice in a broader context.

Participants in this workshop will learn about diverse approaches to internationalisation and the rationale for their use. Through interactive activities you will be able to explore options around your own international strategy. Furthermore, though dialogue with practitioners from the global South, North, East and West, you will gain insight into some of the social, cultural, geographic and economic drivers that shape internationalisation strategies the world over.

Whilst the workshop format is novel for me the issues are really pertinent as the University of Nottingham has been at the forefront of international activity for decades and has grown the activity to the point where we have over 9,000 international students at our campus in the UK, nearly 11,000 students studying at our campuses in Malaysia and China and over 20% of UK-based students engaged in some form of mobility.

We have many international staff, aspects of the curriculum are highly internationalized, we are members of international networks and have many international research and knowledge transfer partnerships as well as a range of focused international partnerships covering articulations and in country delivery as well as capacity development.

unnc 2

University of Nottingham Ningbo china

A genuinely internationalized university brings huge benefits for its home country as well as those in which it operates. It is essential to be clear about motivations and objectives though. Whilst some governments may see both economic and soft power benefits from exporting HE and others may welcome incoming universities’ contributions to growth and capacity building, the impact of universities’ international activities is complex and multi-faceted and the practicalities of delivery are hugely challenging.

Establishing an overseas campus is not straightforward. Challenges range from building the infrastructure to restructuring institutional and local governance. Legal issues, financial arrangements and developing local management can take time and significant effort, as can coming to terms with an entirely new academic, political and cultural framework.

We have built close relationships based on trust and taken the long-term view with our partners. Major new opportunities in teaching, student exchanges and research collaboration have hugely enriched Nottingham’s environment and ethos; our campuses in Asia confer great benefits in terms of the student experience, and this can be equally transformative for students from the UK who spend time studying in China and Malaysia.

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

To leverage the full benefit of an international campus, though, an institution must have a strategy that goes beyond thinking about money. The management input required is high, and there are inevitably opportunity costs.

The investment is substantial, but it is worth it for a university committed to an international vision that goes beyond generating income from overseas student fees. Such a global footprint therefore has real impact for the institution, its students, staff and stakeholders as well as for the governments and society at home and in the countries with which it is deeply engaged. This real and comprehensive international impact though is therefore about much more than just the money.

As part of this session therefore I will be hoping to look at these issues of genuine internationalisation, the challenges faced and the real and lasting impact a committed and fully engaged internationally-focused university can have across all levels, from student to government.

If you are coming to Going Global I hope that isn’t too much of a spoiler. If you aren’t then I can only apologise for reminding you.

(#GoingGlobal2014 is the hashtag for all the excitement of conference attendance from afar)

Guidance or directive?

Easy finance

A new statement from HEFCE advises universities how to make financial information more visible to students. But is it advice, guidance, assistance or in fact a clear directive?

New guidance aims to help universities and colleges in England present information about income and expenditure on their web-sites in a way that is transparent and accessible to current students and the general public.

The guidance has been developed by the British Universities Finance Directors Group (BUFDG), GuildHE, HEFCE, NUS and Universities UK. It follows a request from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to HEFCE for universities and colleges to publish financial information more effectively.

It draws on findings from recent research, including a survey of 2,400 current students which found that there is interest in this type of information but that it was often difficult to find and understand.

The research identifies priorities for improving the presentation of financial information such as accessibility, clear signposting and ensuring technical language is clearly explained, as well as keeping information up to date.

Clear enough for you?

In summary, it seems that all this finance stuff is a bit difficult to find and understand and therefore needs to be provided in accessible and easily digestible form. In other words we need to ensure that this aspect of university management can be represented by infographic. Perhaps it would be better if every dimension of university life were to be represented in pictures?

This just adds, as previously posted, to the excess of information already made available to students. And, if it does turn out to be a requirement rather than just encouragement, then isn’t this yet another piece of unwelcome regulation to add to an already excessive burden?

Note that Hugh Jones has a slightly different take on this, favouring transparency and openness with students. He has a similar line on fancy pictures though…

 

Who are the real VIPs on campus?

Who would you say is the most important person on campus?

We all like to think we are indispensable. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. I sometimes worry the place will grind to a halt when I go on holiday. However, it does seem that things often progress just fine when I’m away (for a brief period, anyway). So perhaps I’m not completely indispensable. Which then invites the question are there key individuals within universities without whom things would just fall apart?

image vip

Obviously there are groups of people who are fundamental to the operation of the institution, starting with academics who teach and research and including grounds staff, catering teams and those who sort out the timetable and run school offices. But who are the absolutely critical individuals?

So who is the most important person in your university? The Vice-Chancellor? Chief Financial Officer? Registrar? Chief Information Officer? Or perhaps others?

You might think that one of the following is more important:

Dean of the Medical school? Head of Grounds? Press Officer? Head of Health and Safety? IT Network Manager? Head of Admissions? Students’ Union President? Head of Security?

Who would you rate as your campus VIP?

#campusvips

Two very different approaches to campus security

Sophisticated Mobile App or an Armoured Truck? Tough Call

The Chronicle of Higher Education had an interesting report on the introduction of ‘LiveSafe’, a mobile app that was adopted by the university in August and has been downloaded 4,200 times:

“We get the luxury of getting a lot of information from the students because we have this platform that is really, really easy to use,” Mr. Venuti says, noting that students can text alerts to officials anonymously if they chose. “These kids are text-driven. They are mobile-device-driven. They can text faster than any of us can probably type.”

LiveSafe, according to the report, was co-founded by a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, and is one of a number of similar apps being snapped up by colleges to help with emergency comms and response. This kind of technology is apparently gaining momentum in the US “amid a national conversation about campus safety that extends all the way to the White House”:

In some ways, the technology moves institutions beyond mass-alerting systems, which became a legal requirement in the wake of Virginia Tech and allow colleges to send out emergency notifications by email, text message, and loudspeaker, among other mediums.

While specific features vary, many of the new apps can be integrated into existing alerting infrastructures while also creating a two-way channel of communication. Users send written or visual messages tagged with their GPS location to public-safety officials, who monitor the apps’ back-end dashboards through web browsers, typically on monitors in command centers or on laptops in patrol cars. Officials can respond to alerts with follow-up questions or specific instructions.

It’s smart stuff and sadly likely to be very useful at US campuses where there seem to be fairly frequent severe incidents at universities.

Meanwhile, over at Ohio State University…

Huffington Post reports that the University has acquired Military-Style Armoured Truck.

There are no suggestions that Ohio State has had a problem with roadside bombs recently but they do now have a response to such eventualities. It is, apparently, a “mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle”. It’s army surplus we are told:

The 19-ton armored truck (specifically, a “MaxxPro,” manufactured by the Illinois defense-vehicle maker Navistar) is built to withstand “ballistic arms fire, mine fields, IED’s, and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical environments,” according to its product description.

This does seem a little over the top – surely things at US universities aren’t this bad?

It does look like the app may have a little more value than the truck but we’ll have to wait and see.

Trademarking the obvious in Higher Education

You might be sued for using some pretty common HE phrases

Slate has an amusing piece on universities and colleges which have trademarked seemingly everyday Higher Education phrases such as “student life” and “fast-track MBA”.

According to the piece various institutions have been granted federal trademark registrations on the phrases, presumably to stop other people from using them in any context remotely related to education. At least in the USA. The key terms to avoid:

  • first-year experience has been trademarked by the University of South Carolina

  • fast-track MBA has been trademarked by Eastern University

  • be the difference has been trademarked by Marquette University

  • cure violence has been trademarked by the University of Illinois

  • student life has been trademarked by Washington University in St. Louis

  • students with diabetes has been trademarked by the University of South Florida

  • one course at a time has been trademarked by Cornell College

  • touched by a nurse has been trademarked by the University of Colorado

  • we’re conquering cancer has been trademarked by the University of Texas

  • working toward a world without cancer has been trademarked by the University of Kansas Hospital

  • imagination beyond measure has been trademarked by the University of Virginia

  • tomorrow starts here has been trademarked by East Carolina University

Don't even think of copying this strapline

Don’t even think of copying this strapline

And it does seem that some are not afraid to go after those who use their trademarked property:

The University of Alabama has made legal threats against a cake shop; East Carolina University sued Cisco; West Virginia University sued a company selling blue-and-gold shirts (they said “Let’s Go Drink Some Beers!”—which WVU claimed was too close to their trademarked “Let’s Go Mountaineers!”).

Bizarre. Some of these are such everyday phrases it is difficult to imagine not using them on a regular basis. Although it is a struggle to imagine a context in which “touched by a nurse” might be deployed to positive effect. It couldn’t happen in the UK, could it? (It probably has.)

Money, Money, Money

HE Income and Expenditure 2012/13

Perhaps not the most exciting publication of the year to date but nevertheless some interesting information in the new Higher Education Statistics Agency report on Income and Expenditure of HE institutions.

HE Finance Plus 2012/13 shows that the total income of higher education institutions (HEIs) in 2012/13 was £29.1 billion. Funding bodies provided £7.0 billion of this income, while tuition fees and education contracts contributed £11.7 billion.

This handy chart shows the proportions of total income of UK higher education institutions by source in 2012/13:
PR201_Inc_721w

The total increase in income over 2011/12 was 4.5%.

And then there is also this helpful summary of total expenditure.
PR201_Exp_485w

Unsurprisingly, the bulk of spend (just over 55%) is on staff. Total spend has increased by 4.7% over 2011/12 and expenditure on staff has risen by 4.1%. It will be interesting to see how this global profile of total spend changes in subsequent years.

One thing is absolutely clear from this summary: with growth in spend outstripping income by 4.7% to 4.5% the position is unsustainable. And it’s only going to get worse in terms of teaching funding. So either institutions will have to find new ways to raise more money or reduce expenditure. The future doesn’t look very bright. It’s a rich university’s world.

OFT gives English HE a 2i (just)

A decent result for HE in England?

A previous post noted the launch of an OFT investigation into competition in the HE sector in England. After gathering much information the OFT has now published a report which, broadly (and perhaps grudgingly), says things are working well:

Overall, our analysis of the higher education sector in England highlights that it is, in many respects, performing to very high standards and enjoys an excellent reputation at the national and international level.

It is also clear that there is no evidence of collusion on fee-setting.

There is a caveat though, and quite a big one

However, we have identified a number of challenges that need to be addressed if the sector is to fulfill its potential to deliver to the benefit of students and the wider society, especially in light of the increased role of competition between higher education institutions (including internationally) and choice by students. In doing so, there is a role for the CMA to play, working with and through stakeholders to address these challenges in a timely and effective manner.

Some of these challenges include:

  • students not being given some key information, such as their teaching staff’s experience or long-term employment prospects, to enable them to choose the most appropriate course and institution
  • some policies and practices by universities, such as changes to elements of the course and/or fees, or not providing all the relevant information about their course, that could put students at a disadvantage and might, in some cases, breach consumer protection legislation
  • while the complaints process has improved, it could be quicker and more accessible

index

Fair enough, we can look at all that. But perhaps the biggest issue in the report is this:

the sector’s regulatory regime is overly complex and does not reflect the increased role of student choice and the wider range of higher education institutions. In particular, there are concerns about the existence of a ‘level playing field’, the role of self-regulation, and the lack of arrangements should a university or course close.

On the basis of these findings, the OFT recommends that its successor body, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), undertakes further work to assess the extent to which the practices identified may affect students, clarifies the responsibilities of universities under consumer protection law and identifies the best way to address these issues.

It also advises that the CMA should work with, and through, stakeholders to inform the design of a regulatory regime which can better contribute to maximising the potential benefits of choice and competition.

In other words the new CMA, OFY’s successor, is being lined up to play a part in helping address regulation in HE. Just splendid. Our ‘level playing field’, which is far from level nor a playing field nor with pitch markings accepted by most participants in the regulatory game is already more of a mud bath and the arrival of the CMA is, I fear, unlikely to assist.

However, that moan aside, this is on the whole an outcome which could have been much worse and confirms that, as many of us would have said at the beginning of the process, there’s nothing to see here.

Surviving an avalanche

The avalanche came. And went?

avalanche cover

It’s just about a year since the publication of the IPPR report  ‘An avalanche is coming: Higher education and the revolution ahead‘. It really was a stirring waning to the future:

‘Our belief is that deep, radical and urgent transformation is required in higher education as much as it is in school systems. Our fear is that, perhaps as a result of complacency, caution or anxiety, or a combination of all three, the pace of change is too slow and the nature of change too incremental.’

‘Should we fail to radically change our approach to education, the same cohort we’re attempting to “protect” could find that their entire future is scuttled by our timidity.’ David Puttnam, MIT, 2012

It was supported by a really cool video which was as insightful as it was comprehensive:

Anyway, this cataclysmic offering aimed “to provoke creative dialogue and challenge complacency in our traditional higher education institutions”.

‘Just as globalisation and technology have transformed other huge sectors of the economy in the past 20 years, in the next 20 years universities face transformation.’

With a massive diversification in the range of providers, methods and technologies delivering tertiary education worldwide, the assumptions underlying the traditional relationship between universities, students and local and national economies are increasingly under great pressure – a revolution is coming.

In summary, the case seemed to be that the future was not great for those institutions which did not adapt to the new thinking.

Private Frazer scenario

To save you the trouble, the piece really does not bear re-reading. Rather you might prefer to revisit the coruscating WonkHE piece from the time by David Kernohan which helpfully demolishes most of the arguments in the Avalanche paper as the following extract nicely demonstrates:

The education ‘revolution’ that Barber, Donnelly and Rizvi are such keen advocates of is a comfortably fed one. This is not a cry from the barricades – not a populist movement of grass roots activists. The hand-wringing citation of unemployment statistics and rising student fees comes not from the unemployed and poor, but from the new education industry that wants to find a way into the marketplace.

And this is the underlying impression one takes from this report. The citations are shoddy, the proofreading abysmal – it reads like a bad blog post. Or a good Ted talk. It’s a serving of handsome slices of invective which would leave anyone sick to the stomach. Falling graduate wages. The lack of good “quality measures” for universities. A neatly formatted table of annual academic publication rates – in 50 year slices from 1726 onwards – labelled “The Growth of Information over 300 years”. (but “citizens of the world now cry out for synthesis”!!)

Again and again we, as citizens of the world, are encouraged to rail and protest about the broken system that somehow seems to have educated world leaders, scientists, lawyers, engineers and senior staff at academic publishers with pretensions at “thought leadership”. A system which anyone would admit has problems; problems caused by the imposition of a wearying and inapplicable market.

Section 6 of the report, “The Competition is heating up”, retreads familiar grounds concerning the all-conquering world of the MOOC – that well known reheating of early 00s internet education hype flavoured with a rich source of venture capital. But this is situated within a wider spectrum of globalised private for-profit providers – the lot of whom (poor reputation! high drop-out rates! difficulty in gaining degree awarding powers!) is bewailed at some length.

It is a thorough and quite devastating critique. Yes, there has been change in the past year and of course institutions have had to adapt. MOOCs will continue to have an impact in the longer term. But this is not a revolution. Or an avalanche.

Trinity rebrand shock

Although perhaps not quite that radical

According to the headline:

‘Ivory towers’ shaken by plan to rebrand Trinity

The Independent has the full story on this shocking plan:

Outraged tenured academics, referred to as Fellows, have held a number of meetings to discuss a proposed change in the name of the college to ‘Trinity College, University of Dublin’.

The college hired market research firm Behaviour and Attitudes to produce a report entitled ‘TCD Identity Initiative’, which showed clearly that the vast majority of students, staff and members of the public are strongly opposed to changing the name.

But the survey also revealed that Trinity was widely viewed as a “snobbish and elitist” institution, rich in heritage and tradition but not really regarded as a modern university.

The report adds that the possible name change is part of a drive to “modernise” to attract more international students. It really isn’t clear how adding a comma and two words is going to deliver that. Nor how the current logo…

TCD-logo-wide

…fails to convey the University bit.

But they could certainly make themselves look more modern. Including by pretending those 420 years of history and academic achievement didn’t happen.

Too Many Administrators?

Here we go again

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting piece on administrative staff numbers which suggests that a 28% growth in Higher Education work force numbers is primarily due to additional administrative staff.

As report says

Other industries have found ways to outsource services that are not central to what they do, but higher education has invested more and more—as part of a strategy, he contended. Just as a cable company bundles channels together and makes you pay for them all, whether or not you watch them, colleges have bundled counseling, athletics, campus activities, and other services with the instructional side to justify charging more.

“All of those things they are bundling are adding to the price of attendance,” he said.

So, not a terribly helpful view.

And, naturally, people working in student services see things rather differently:

Patricia L. Leonard, vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, said that growth in student services might reflect colleges’ response to increased regulation and pressure from parents and policy makers.

Faculty members typically don\’t deal with legal disputes, government regulations, athletics compliance, or intervention in mental-health, sexual-assault, or disabilities issues—that’s the professional staff’s job, she said.

“When you put that all together, there may be increased staff, but it’s because campuses are trying to meet the need,” she said. “Any one case is extremely time-consuming.”

People have come to expect that education extends to activities outside the classroom, she said. Many of her staff members not only coordinate with instructors, but also teach classes.

“It’s an integrated approach,” she said, “and I don’t think that would happen if it were outsourced.”

We’ve been here before. A previous post on this subject made my position pretty clear on this issue I think:

In order for the academic staff to deliver on their core responsibilities for teaching and research it is essential that all the services they and the university need are delivered efficiently and effectively. There is not much point in hiring a world-leading scholar if she has to do her all her own photocopying, spend a day a week on the ‘phone trying to sort out tax issues or cut the grass outside the office every month because there aren’t any other staff to do this work. These services are required and staff are needed to do this work to ensure academics are not unnecessarily distracted from their primary duties.

So, there is a lot more to be done to support the student experience, a great deal more regulation to deal with and ever more support required to help academics do the best job they can. There will undoubtedly be scope for efficiencies too and the situation in the UK is nowhere near as dramatic as shown by this US data but still this does not point to immediate outsourcing as the solution to all of these concerns.

Dealer deals

A fair deal for students?

PA Consulting have produced an interesting report on ‘The Student Deal’:

The Student Deal: designing genuinely student-centred higher education incorporates our latest thinking on current issues and challenges in higher education. Reflecting the changing dynamics of the higher education system, The Student Deal challenges the limitations of the current thinking about students-as-customers, and the related emphasis on student satisfaction and student journeys.

We believe these approaches encourage a limited, transactional view of the relationship between students and providers and do not adequately address the lifetime benefits students should expect from their personal investment in higher education, nor the collaborative relationship between students and learning providers that best fosters those benefits.

A bum deal?

A bum deal?

It’s an intelligent pitch. The full report, available here, offers the following opening:

“The language of students-as-customers neglects the essential mutual commitment between students and learning providers.”

“Students are not simply consumers of a bundle of educational and related services, even when their fees pay for those services.”

This is very well put. Students are much more than just customers and this is certainly true in critical learning-related interactions. However, there is a subset of activities (which do impact on their lives) where they are in a customer relationship with the University. These are important transactions too and can have a negative impact on all of the other aspects of the ‘deal’ set out here.

The paper is right to challenge the rather simplistic ‘student experience’ discourse. In particular the characterisation of the NSS as the TripAdvisor of higher education is an excellent observation. The ‘Student Deal’ does recognize the multi-dimensional nature of the relationships here between student and different parts of the university:

“The primary outcomes sought by students are built around four core essentials:

• grasping a body of discipline-based knowledge

• acquiring expertise in applying and mastering that knowledge

growth as individuals through personal, societal and professional development, and

• enhancing their career and life opportunities.”

This is a reasonable representation but the ‘Graduate Attributes’ notion has been around for at least 20 years (the development of the ‘Graduate Attributes Profile’ was, I think, an HEQC project in the mid-1990s) and, although I do think it is a preferable conceptualisation to that of the ‘T-shaped person’, I’m still not sure it is quite up to the job here. The elements within the core outcomes are all reasonable propositions but there is a huge difference in weighting in terms of effort, duration, impact and importance which is not really addressed in the model.

The Student Deal (a bit like a flower)

The Student Deal (a bit like a flower)

It is though right to observe that one size can’t fit all: “Universities need to tailor the Student Deals they offer to the diversity of learners and markets.”

This is the real challenge for institutions – deciding what the offer is and then looking to do the deals. (Unfortunate though with the choice of UEA’s London Campus as an example given the recent announcement that it is to close in September.) It is though a far from straightforward decision.

“Learners at every level and mode of study are, in effect, entering a ‘Student Deal’ with their chosen provider.”

“The Student Deal is forged at the meeting of individuals’ ambitions and talents with the experiences, resources and personalised support available through their chosen provider.”

I’m really not sure about the ‘student as investor’ line in here or indeed how personal this ultimately can be – are we talking a personalized contract? Haven’t we been there before too?

“The Student Deal, unlike the student experience, is essentially a two-way commitment between providers and learners, which demands as much from the student/investor as from the provider.”

Yes, but it is perhaps unrealistic to expect this to be anything other than an asymmetric relationship. At the end of the day the dealer deals.

Overall though an interesting and stimulating paper.

The 2014 Grant letter: another epistolary triumph

And the wait was finally over

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has written to HEFCE with the Department’s annual message on funding and helpful bag of instructions. As excitement in the sector reached near fever pitch, the contents were being live-tweeted by @TimesHigherEd while everyone else waited to get hold of a copy.

The much-delayed letter does not contain much of what you might describe as good news although there is some modest improvement on the capital front. Additional student places and the removal of student number controls altogether from 2015-16 are confirmed:

The settlement will mean reductions in funding for higher education institutions in 2014-15 and again in 2015-16 beyond those accounted for by the switch to publicly funded tuition fees. The Government has asked HEFCE to deliver the reductions in ways which protect as far as possible high-cost subjects (including STEM), widening participation (which is funded via the HEFCE Student Opportunity allocation), and small and specialist institutions.

HEFCE is asked to continue its work with the Research Councils and others to support internationally excellent research and the delivery of the impact agenda through the dual-support framework. The ring-fenced settlement for science and research means that recurrent funding is maintained at £1,573 million, the same cash levels as 2013-14.

Overall, the amount of capital funding for teaching and research will increase in 2014-15 to £440 million.

The grant letter confirms the Government’s provision of a maximum of 30,000 additional student places in academic year 2014-15 for HEFCE-funded institutions. The student number control will be removed entirely from 2015-16, and the Government has asked HEFCE to ensure that higher education institutions maintain the quality of the student experience in these circumstances.

Bur enough of the content, what about the important stuff like length? At 22 paragraphs, excluding the covering letter, or 26 if you include the substantive comments in the letter, it is shorter than any of its three predecessors from the BIS duo which have come in at 36, 35 and 28 paragraphs long. It is pleasing though that the Secretary of State’s signature remains as cheerful as ever (see below).

It is far from the shortest on record though which is the initial 10 paragraph punt from back at the start of the Coalition journey. As this utterly pointless graph (now in need of an update) shows, the long term trend is reduced grant letter length.

The length of Grant Letters to HEFCE down the years

The length of Grant Letters to HEFCE down the years

So much for this year then, what of the past?

The earlier post on this topic back in August 2010 noted:

The most recent funding letter of June 24 2010 from Vince Cable and David Willetts to the Chairman of HEFCE is distinctive for three main reasons. First, and unsurprisingly if dispiritingly, it outlines the first major tranche of savings to be made in the 2010-11 financial year. Secondly, it is extremely short – indeed at 10 paragraphs and just over two pages it is the shortest funding letter to the Council in at least 14 years and undercuts all letters under the previous government by some way. Thirdly, it is the first such letter to be signed by both the Secretary of State and the relevant Minister. And thank goodness too or some of us might never have seen this fascinating signature:

Of course those with longer memories will have fond recollections of the briefest of grant letters from the University Grants Committee (UGC) which simply set out the amount of money available for disbursement. Many will long for the golden age of five year funding settlements under the UGC. Whilst it could reasonably be argued that the UGC served as an effective buffer between the state and the universities, the options for the Higher Education Funding Councils, and in particular HEFCE, are much more limited as the directives from government on spending have become ever more detailed and prescriptive. Fortunately though we are able to examine all of the details of these as HEFCE has a nice collection of funding letters going back to 1996.

This decidedly dubious summary of these letters draws on this collection but refers only to English funding allocations. I’m sure the other funding councils receive similar missives from their respective governments but it is beyond my capacity to deal with them I’m afraid.

The length of funding letters has seen two peaks in the last 14 years: January 2003’s letter was 73 paragraphs long and the December 1998 note ran to 66 paragraphs. The November 1999, November 2000 and December 2001 letters ranged from 40 to 46 paragraphs but the January 2004 letter and subsequent missives tend towards the more traditional brevity of only 15-25 paragraphs of instruction to HEFCE.

Just for completeness then here are some of the details about English Higher Education’s most exciting epistles:

  1. The first letter in this series is the last prepared under the previous Conservative government, way back in November 1996. This 41 paragraph note (signed by a Civil Servant) covers: linking funding to assessment of teaching quality, expanding part-time provision, the importance of closer links with employers, not wanting to see longer courses, a planned reduction in student numbers by 2,000 for the following year and keeping the participation rate at around 30%. Some interesting parallels here with the most recent letter from the current government perhaps?
  2. The December 1998 letter is the first New Labour funding letter. At 66 paragraphs it is one of the longest in recent times and the last one to carry the name of a senior Civil Servant rather than the Secretary of State. Topics covered include sector spending, lifelong learning, increasing participation, maintaining quality and standards (a recurring theme down the years), widening access, promoting employability, research investment, capital spend, tuition fee arrangements and Year 2000 issues (we were all worried then).
  3. The November 1999 letter, 43 paragraphs long, provides David Blunkett with the opportunity to wax lyrical on the importance of maintaining quality and standards, increasing participation and employability, widening access, equal opportunities for HE staff, dealing with student complaints, new capital funding, pfi/ppp opportunities, research funding and HE pay.
  4. David Blunkett, in his November 2000 letter, which runs to a sprightly 46 paragraphs, makes some big points on widening participation as a key priority, business links and the e-university.
  5. In November 2001 Estelle Morris provides a neat 40 paragraph letter which gives lots of direction on widening participation, maintaining quality and standards, strengthening research, the importance of links with industry and communities, as well as something on the value of the e-Universities project (remember that?) and, last but not least, social inclusion.
  6. January 2003 represents the high water mark of recent funding letters: in 73 action packed paragraphs Charles Clarke, in his first outing as Secretary of State, is clearly keen to lead the way. The letter covers, among other things, improvement in research, expanded student numbers, foundation degrees, widening participation, improving teaching and learning and increased knowledge transfer. As if that were not enough we also have the establishment of the AHRC, the introduction of a new quality assurance regime but with reduced burdens for institutions (yeah, right), credit systems, FE partnerships, expanded student numbers and new investments in HE workforce development. A real blockbuster of a letter.
  7. The January 2004 message from Charles Clarke comes in at 20 paragraphs in just over 4 pages with reducing bureaucracy, building research and quality and standards and the establishment of Aimhigher as its central features.
  8. December 2004 brings a Christmas treat from everyone’s favourite Santa, Charles Clarke. With just 16 paragraphs and 4 pages of direction Clarke stresses the importance of maintaining the unit of funding for teaching, controlling student numbers and making efficiency gains.
  9. The January 2006 letter, a first and last offering from Ruth Kelly, comes in at a modest 15 paragraphs and 4 pages. No huge surprises in the text with employer-led provision, more widening participation, additional research and capital funding and a strong steer on reducing bureaucracy being the primary features. Additional points to note include equal opportunities for HE staff, efficiency gains, the new conditions which accompany the new tuition fees regime and reference to access agreements. What’s not to like here?
  10. January 2007’s is a punchy 19 paragraphs and merely five pages from Alan Johnson (his one and only letter). Despite the wordiness there isn’t a huge amount in here beyond employer engagement, growing foundation degrees and a lot on widening participation.
  11. January 2008: as with its successor letter this one is 24 paragraphs and 7 pages long (and note the online version on the HEFCE website is erroneously dated 18 Jan 2009). In this funding letter Denham indicates that his priorities are increasing student numbers, developing employer part-funded provision, and widening participation. The letter also refers to encouraging HE to develop stronger links with schools and colleges, greater investment in research, the importance of STEM, a green development fund, closer measuring of performance, and the establishment of the fund-raising match-funding scheme.
  12. January 2009’s letter is 7 pages and 24 paragraphs long and in it John Denham seeks to encourage HE to support the economy through recession, wider engagement with business, promote employer-led provision, innovative ways to support business, promotion of STEM subjects and widening participation and extending fair access. Additionally, there is the confirmation of the ‘university challenge’ with 20 new HE centres to be established, emphasis on the maintenance of quality and standards, plans for continuing to reduce regulation, commitment to dual support as well as the development of REF, steps to tackle climate change and bearing down on over-recruitment by institutions.
  13. The December 2009 letter from Lord Mandelson comes in at 15 paragraphs. This short note follows up on Higher Ambitions (which, in case you had forgotten, “sets out a course for how universities can remain world class, providing the nation with the high level skills needed to remain competitive, while continuing to attract the brightest students and researchers”) and also covers the Economic Challenge Investment Fund, wider and fairer access to HE, increasing the variety of undergraduate provision, new funding incentives to deliver higher level skills, developing REF, new developments in quality assurance including the publication of a standard set of information for students, engaging with communities and penalizing institutions which over-recruit students.
  14. June 2010 sees the first funding letter from the new coalition government: Cable and Willetts give us 10 brief paragraphs covering initial savings, efficiencies and cuts but also 10,000 extra places (but with strings).

So, that’s your lot folks. All you never wanted to know about 15 years of funding letters.

The 2013 International Leadership Conference: Managing Global Universities

A report on the conference held at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

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Last November delegates from UK, Australia, Middle East, China, India gathered in the unique setting of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China to explore the challenges of managing universities in an era of globalization.

The conference, supported by The Chronicle of Higher Education, was organized to bring together senior managers and leaders to share best practice around developing and operating campuses abroad, and builds on Nottingham’s strengths as a successful research-led UK university with an excellent reputation for international leadership and management.

The conference opened with an overview (from me) of Nottingham’s experience of operating campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia.

This first presentation led on the benefits for both universities and their students of opening campuses abroad, highlighting Nottingham’s strengths as a successful research-led UK university with an excellent reputation for international leadership and management. Clarity of vision, long-term commitment and a detailed understanding of the local context were crucial to success.

The session outlined the programme for the event which covered every dimension of international higher education leadership, from strategy development to global branding, virtual provision to researching in China and many aspects of student and staff experiences.

The four-day specialised conference offered speakers from many other international institutions with expertise in globalising higher education. These included  senior managers from i-Graduate, Benoy, The Parthenon Group, The Association of Business Schools, the British Council and other universities, Murdoch University, the University of Liverpool and the University of the West of Scotland. Nottingham’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Greenaway, as well as the University’s the Director of Marketing, Communications and Recruitment, the Assistant Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning and the Deputy Director of Human Resources all participated in speeches and workshop sessions. Nottingham’s international leaders, the Provost and CEO of The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC), the Provost and the Vice Provost of UNNC were also involved.

Full details about the International Leadership Conference can be found here.

The University of Nottingham Ningbo China as an exemplar of global higher education leadership

Professor Nick Miles, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Provost of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, launched proceedings and spoke passionately of the successes of UNNC and the enormous opportunities for further growth and development in China. The campus had achieved much and staff had overcome many challenges and now occupied a prominent position in the Chinese Higher Education system. In addition to exploring the local, regional and national context, he addressed strategic issues, the quality of the education provided and the high calibre of students, graduate employability (which sees 100% progress into jobs or higher level study), quality assurance, cultural issues and staffing matters.

Context

Nottingham represents a new model of global higher education. Students and staff are offered study and travel opportunities to help position them for success, and Nottingham conducts coordinated research on some of the most pressing global human concerns and social problems simultaneously in three different but complementary national contexts.

The University established its first overseas campus in Malaysia 13 years ago and has since won two Queen’s Awards – one for Enterprise in International Trade in 2001 and another in 2006 in recognition of Nottingham’s position as the world’s first foreign university to receive a licence to open a campus in China.

The University has been building international links for decades. In 1950, the first group of Malaysian students arrived in Nottingham, beginning an over 60-year association with the University which has seen Nottingham graduates such as YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, the current Prime Minister of Malaysia, become leading members of society. In 2000, The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus first opened its doors to just 90 students in Kuala Lumpur. Since then, our student body in Malaysia has grown to almost 5,000 – including more than 70 nationalities – based at our 125-acre dedicated campus site in Semenyih.

The University’s links with China also date back many years, featuring well over 90 collaborations with Chinese universities. In 1999 the University elected academician Professor Yang Fujia as its Chancellor. With the then Vice-Chancellor, Sir Colin Campbell, they developed a vision for a new hybrid style of university in China. In July 2003, new legislation in China was passed permitting the establishment of foreign campuses in China. The University of Nottingham was the first university to receive a licence to operate a campus under this legislation. The result was the opening in 2004 of the campus in the prosperous and successful city of Ningbo in Zhejiang Province. The University of Nottingham Ningbo Campus now has over 5,800 students.

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Strategy development

David Wright, Senior Advisor to the Parthenon Group explored the full range of issues involved in developing a global strategy for higher education institutions. Delegates considered key dimensions of strategy and discussed the continued growth in student numbers, the operation of international offices in universities, the emergence of the ‘Agent Corporation’ as a major player in the global student recruitment market and different aspects of channel management for institutions in developing their strategies.

The Chinese higher education market

Understanding China’s market for higher education was the theme for Jeremy Chan Regional Head of Research and Consultancy in East Asia for the British Council. Jeremy set out a comprehensive picture of China’s economy, demographic and political developments. Although he noted that population changes had led some to suggest that the appetite for higher education for students within China and those who wished to travel abroad it was his view that the growing affluence of the population overall meant that student numbers would continue to grow in the coming years. The UK remained the top partner for transnational education in China although its activities were heavily biased towards undergraduate provision unlike, for example, the US and Australia which had larger postgraduate numbers involved. Branch campus operations, where the University of Nottingham Ningbo China had led the way, were also being pursued by an increasing number of other leading Western universities.

Routes to internationalisation

Professor Christine Ennew, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Provost of the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, explored the motivation of universities in mapping new routes to internationalisation in higher education across academic, cultural, political and economic dimensions. She argued that higher education has always been international in character and unconstrained by national borders but the challenge now was to deal with the sheer scale of such activity and to manage internationalization effectively. A range of different models of international engagement were explored and the many challenges, pitfalls and benefits considered.

Global reputation, branding and communications

Emma Leech, Director of Marketing, Communications and Recruitment at the University of Nottingham UK explored the challenges faced by higher education in establishing global branding and reputation and informed delegates of the approach which had been taken by Nottingham in developing its position. The challenges of plotting a distinctive course and sustaining reputation were discussed. A further session looked at transformational communications and the need to harness engagement across institutions to support change with specific reference to online opportunities. A range of possibilities were explored including social media, which, whilst challenging to manage effectively,  could be used creatively to engage students and to assist with change management. At the heart of such activity though was the need to communicate with clarity and to ensure transparency.

Making teaching count

Professor Craig Mahoney, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West of Scotland offered a passionately delivered case for the fundamental importance of teaching within higher education and for its thorough professionalization. Noting that all too often academic staff tended to rely on their own, often extremely dated, student experience as the basis for their teaching methods, he argued strongly that all teachers should be trained to teach. Not only did they need to understand and build upon the experiences of today’s school children, tomorrow’s undergraduates, but all teachers had to be accustomed to exploiting technology in order to enhance the learning experience. Professor Mahoney went on to propose a European or even a global academy for teaching and learning in order to support, promote and reinforce the vital status of teaching.

Student matters

Student satisfaction, benchmarking the global student experience, data and feedback were covered in whirlwind presentation by Will Archer, Chief Executive of iGraduate, which tracks student views across the globe. Drawing on the example of one leading university he explained how Student Barometer data could be used to drive change and improvement in the student experience.

Professor Julie Sanders, Vice-Provost for Teaching and Learning at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, and Professor Wyn Morgan, Assistant Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Nottingham UK, discussed approaches to developing and delivering an international student experience. Covering issues around changing student profile, promoting global citizenship, the challenges of internationalizing the curriculum and creative approaches to classroom activities, the presenters offered a comprehensive picture of the student experience in a very different context. Hot topics such as blended online and face to face learning, use of social media in teaching and the rise of MOOCs in China were also the subject of debate.

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Online learning

Virtual spaces as places for learning and the role of postgraduate online global higher education communities was the topic for Professor Clare Pickles, Academic Director (Education) for Laureate Online Education and Director of Online Studies for the University of Liverpool’s Professional Doctorate in Higher Education. Clare provided a comprehensive overview of the ways in which her students work and collaborate online and how they are aided by faculty and student support advisors located around the globe. Delegates also learned about the development of an online graduate school and Clare’s own YouTube channel through which she provided updates to students on current higher education issues as she travelled round the world.

The business end

Paul Marshall, Chief Executive of the Association of Business Schools (ABS), explored the challenges of running business schools in a global higher education environment. Noting the remarkable fact that 90% of MBA students in the UK were international he went on to observe that too many business schools looked too similar and offered the same provision. Whilst 16 business schools in the UK and 59 worldwide had triple accreditation, which was seen as a major selling point, it was not clear that students valued accreditation at all. All faced major challenges, wherever in the world they operated, and ABS was undertaking a range of activities to support and guide change in the sector.

Research in China

Undertaking research in China offers huge opportunities for new areas of work but also some challenges. Professor Fintan Cullen, Dean of Arts and Education and Acting Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China., led a lively session involving academic colleagues from English and Contemporary China Studies and three current PhD students from Education, the Business School and Economics. The major attraction for researchers was the fact that many areas of activity in many disciplines had not been subject to serious investigation and therefore the territory was very open for all kinds of research. Delegates were fascinated to hear the research students outline their studies in consumer behaviour, international university branch campus leadership and the import challenges for foreign companies operating in China. All agreed that the unique opportunities offered by the presence of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China made research activity hugely attractive. Such research would often push against boundaries but care was required to avoid breaching them. Further discussion covered the training provided for new PhD supervisors and the progress in building a graduate community in the University.

People

The many challenges of international staff recruitment were covered in a session led by Peter McCracken, Deputy Director of Human Resources at the University of Nottingham.  Addressing everything from contractual issues, tax matters, visas, the particular complexities of operating in China and the importance of pre-interview campus visits and comprehensive induction arrangements, the session gave rise to a whole host of detailed questions from delegates. The make up of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China’s staff was also explored and the presenter acknowledged that the challenges faced continued to change and evolve although huge progress had been made.

Leading in global higher education

Changing patterns of leadership in a global higher education environment was the theme for Jon Baldwin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Professional Services) at Australia’s Murdoch University. In an entertaining survey of different models and structures of leadership in universities from the collegial to the bureaucratic, all of which were in some way contested he noted that a recent study published by the UK’s Leadership Foundation had concluded that “nothing efinitive can be said about leadership in higher education”. One key example he explored was the different leadership approaches which had been taken by different universities to the establishment of overseas branch campuses. The most insightful analysis of HE leadership though he attributed to a taxi driver who, after hearing a detailed explanation of the Registrar’s role, summarized it in a distinctively positive way: “all indoors and no heavy lifting”.

Striking parallels

Graham Cartledge CBE, Chairman of Benoy, the major international firm of architects, provided a distinctive angle on the issue of global leadership in taking delegates on a tour from “Cowsheds to Kowloon, beyond and back” which set out Benoy’s international

Graham Cartledge

Graham Cartledge

growth story. The journey since the early days of the company in Newark in the 1970s and a difficult set of circumstances in the recession of the early 80s led to a number of breakthrough moments over subsequent years including the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, the redevelopment of the Bullring in Birmingham, the creation of Media City in Salford and the Westfield shopping centre in East London. Since then the company had grown hugely and internationally and undertaken major projects in Hong Kong, China and Abu Dhabi. Benoy realized early on the opportunities provided by the growth of China’s economy and now had a major presence there and over 300 staff based in East Asia. The company retained a strong entrepreneurial ethos and sought to move staff around its offices to ensure a sustained culture and that the company could respond in a consistent manner. Thinking internationally and acting locally was a key feature of Benoy’s strategy and the effective sharing of knowledge across the organisation was seen as an essential success factor. Delegates were hugely impressed with the presentation and the many parallels with global higher education developments.

Leading the global university

In a keynote presentation the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham, Professor David Greenaway, set out the origins of the University’s internationalization strategy and the recognition that the future was in Asia which ultimately led to the establishment of campuses in Malaysia and China. He stressed the long term commitment to continuing to work in both nations and the development of new research strands – including in global food security via the Crops for the Future initiative in Malaysia and the new International Academy for the Marine Economy and Technology in Ningbo, the fourth largest port in the world. Clarity of vision, integration of systems and processes across three campuses and the strength of local leadership were highlighted as key success factors.

Conclusion

Overall, conference participants enjoyed an outstanding and diverse range of sessions and the lessons learned for leading global universities. Delegates were thanked for their contributions and it was hoped that they had benefitted from exploring these major strategic themes across higher education in the unique and real context of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

The damage caused by the athletics arms race

Uncontrolled expansion of athletics can cause real problems

Interesting piece in Inside Higher Ed on a paper which looks at the academic damage of an expanding independent athletics program with a particular focus on Berkeley:

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When describing the approach that administrators at the University of California at Berkeley took to the university’s sports program, John Cummins consistently uses a somewhat unexpected term: ambivalent.

Unexpected, says Cummins, a former associate chancellor at the university, because Berkeley, like all other big-time football programs in the major athletic conferences, is in a “spending race” on facilities, coaching salaries and conference-related travel in order to lure – or, as the paper puts it, “in the hopes of luring” – the best recruits.

Because the university continues to admit underprepared students because of their athletic prowess, he says, despite football boasting the lowest graduation rate (44 percent) of athletes of any Division I program this year, and despite athletes consistently graduating at lower rates (especially black athletes) than non-athletes do.

And because administrators have allowed the athletics department to move further and further outside the institution and operate simply as a business, he argues, no matter what deficits, internal conflicts, scandals and National Collegiate Athletic Association violations ensue.

Given the general direction of things, that all sounds pretty purposeful, not evidence of ambivalence.

It’s a pretty scary piece overall but really does feel like a completely different world to the UK experience. Could it happen here? I don’t think so and certainly not at such scale. But it is conceivable that institutions may compromise on admissions standards in order to recruit sporting stars.

That Higher Ed joke isn’t funny any more

Satire in Higher Education.

I’ve written before about books covering higher education in general and the commented on the end of the campus novel as well as its  possible reinvention.

More recently, there has been a series of books intended to capture the humorous and darker side of British higher education life:
A comic portrayal of modern university life seen through the eyes of a Professor of Christian Ethics. Married to the daughter of a baronet, he is rich, successful and eminent. Yet, as he approaches retirement, he is caught up in a conspiracy involving sexual harassment, victimisation and fraud. As he seeks to escape from the web of deceit that surrounds him, he uncovers the dark side of the modern university.
Written anonymously by a prominent academic this comic novel exposes the petty jealousies, excitement and intrigue of campus life in the twenty-first century.

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I failed to get excited by the extracts of this series I have read. However, others were more enthusiastic:

‘I charged through the opening chapters with a growing sense of horror,
paranoia–and recognition. This is a rattling read, and a chilling expose
of political correctness on campus.’ Boris Johnson, [then] Shadow Minister for Higher Education

And seeking to occupy similar terrain there is the  Wading through treacle blog:

The ‘action’ (used in the sense of the narrative and in no way intended to imply that anything active actually occurs at Burston Central) takes place during the spring and summer terms. Car parking is still important, and the anarchy over kettle ownership rumbles on. And as for the ‘multi-functional devices’ which have replaced personal printers….maybe they’re working better. Or maybe not.

So, apart from this latter splendid effort, there really hasn’t been a lot to get excited about on the satire front. But then this very amusing video emerged which was an informercial for a fake online for-profit university. As the Chronicle reported:

At first blush, it might seem like an ad for another online university you haven’t heard of. But “Let’s Profit Off Each Other” is, in fact, the slogan of the fictional “For Profit Online University”—the subject of an 11-minute parody infomercial that, according to the blogSplitsider, was created by former writers for The Onion, a satirical website, and has been airing at 4 a.m. recently on the cable-television channel Adult Swim.

And it’s quite brutal. Some of the gags: FPOU is “proudly unaccredited,” and its students use proprietary online “thoughtcoins” to download facts, purchase “class points,” and buy sandwiches from Panera Bread. FPOU’s enrollment policy? “Technically, if you have a credit card, you’re already enrolled.” Faculty? “Don’t like your professor? Our instructors are easy to replace because they’re spread across the whole world. And they have no way to contact each other.”

Traditional universities aren’t spared, either. For instance, an FPOU transfer student’s testimonial about his bricks-and-mortar college experience: “There were constant sexual assaults, suicides, and building collapses.” FPOU, in turn, promises to do away with “crumbling campuses, full of corrupt, anti-Israel professors.”

It really is very good indeed. Unfortunately, the video itself seems to have disappeared at time of writing.

And then there was this report in Times Higher Education:

The scandals that sometimes line these pages – from stories about grade inflation to sexual harassment and dodgy overseas dealings – often seem like the plot of a theatrical farce. So it was only a matter of time before a play was written about the current dramas besetting higher education.

Sellout – a “political comedy” by dramatist David Lane – gets its first rehearsed reading at the Exeter Northcott Theatre, University of Exeter on 24 January.

At its heart is Frank, a 48-year-old senior lecturer who has just returned from enforced leave after complaining about the fact that student “Jessica Charter was ushered through to her next year of study despite not just failing but getting one of the lowest marks the department’s ever seen”.

When it comes to students, Frank takes the old-fashioned line that “somewhere in that throng of leggings, ironic flat caps and deck shoes is something we’ve never seen before…We need to push them, it’s what they’re paying for.”

Yet everything the lecturer stands for is under threat, from a head of department who wants him to “closely monitor [his] stakeholder interface” and a younger colleague with an Excel program to “time [her] student allocations to the minute”.

With depression, excessive alcohol, collapsing families and doomed office romances thrown in, it is clear that Mr Lane has an amusingly bleak view of university life that is likely to be familiar to many academics.

Amusingly bleak? Bleak for sure. Anyway, perhaps satire in higher education does have a future.