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.

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True Crime on Campus §34: voodoo

New year true crime on campus

Some odd things can happen on campus. Fortunately, our unflappable Security staff are more than capable of responding to any situation:

010 Report of a group of youths on Jubilee Campus. The youths were spoken to by Security and told to leave Campus. The youths ran into Exchange Building and then off the Campus shouting and Swearing at the Officers.

0210 Report of a Conference Delegate lying on the ground adjacent to Cavendish Hall. Security attended the male was found to be so drunk he could not stand without assistance and was resident in Willoughby Hall. Security Officers took the delegate back to his Hall a further check on him was made later in the night to confirm he was well.

cherry picker

1520 A Patrol Security Officer observed a Cherry Picker being manoeuvred on the Science Site. The Officer watched as the Cherry Picker drove into a parked vehicle causing damage to the rear of the vehicle. The driver of the Cherry Picker was stopped and spoken to by the Officer. The owner of the vehicle a member of Staff was informed and attended. Both parties exchanged details.

1845 Security spoke to two youths who refused to leave Jubilee Campus. The youths are part of the larger group that has been causing issues on the Campus. The Police were called and on arrival they spoke to the youths and took them home to speak to their parents. Security are to follow up.

2028 Report of two suspicious males sitting on a vehicle adjacent to Newark Hall. Security attended and spoke to the males who were found to be students.

1740 Report of a suspicious male on Beeston Lane. Security attended and spoke to the male who was identified as a Conference Delegate.

1635 Report of a male on the roof of Trent Building. Security attended and spoke to the male who stated he was free running. The male was told to leave and not to go back on the building roof.

2030 Report of a Student with an injury to her hand in Hall. Security attended. The Student had bruised one of her fingers while “fooling around” with a friend.

0100 Report of a dispute between a Pizza delivery driver and a Taxi driver outside Willoughby Hall. Both Drivers stated that they had been sworn at by the other. Both drivers given advice.

Digital-clock-alarm1240 Report of an alarm clock sounding in a room in Hugh Stewart Hall. Security attended and turned the alarm off.

0010 Report of a disturbance at the Mooch. Security attended. It was reported that a group of Students had stolen a box of Cider from a Beer festival. Students who organised the festival had recovered the Cider but two of the group had been punched while recovering it. Security to follow up. Police not involved.

1545 The Porter of Willoughby Hall reported that a sofa was on the roof of the Porters Lodge and that Estates would remove tomorrow.

2315 A member of Staff from Starbucks cafe reported that they had left two grills on in the Cafe. Security entered Starbucks and turned the Grills off.

0255 Patrol Security Officers stopped two males who were running from Hugh Stewart Hall. The males were stopped by Cripps Hall. Officers stopped one of the males who is a guest of a Student staying in another Hall. The male had taken a tin of food from a student’s room in Hugh Stewart Hall. The Warden is to be informed.

1140 Report of a male by Highfields Lake with a Sword. Security attended. On arrival Officers spoke to a number of Students from a re-enactment Society and informed them of the concerns which had been raised. Students’ Union to be informed of Police request to be notified of any further such meetings in this area.

16:35 Security received a report of a cigarette bin on fire outside the entrance of Humanities. On arrival, the fire had been put out with water by a member of staff. The Helpdesk were already aware.

Vudu1510 A member of the public contacted Security to report that there was a Voodoo doll on the Headless Statue adjacent to Built Environment. The member of the public was concerned that Satanic Practices may affect Students. The person was given reassurance Officers attended the Statue and removed a doll with a pin through its head.

2245 Report of a dead body on the footpath adjacent to the Swimming Pool. Security and Police attended. On arrival a male was found to be drunk and unconscious. The male was woken up and spoken to. He confirmed his details and stated that he had been to a works party on Campus and had far too much to drink. This was confirmed by his line manager. The male was taken home for his own safety by the Police.

The Imperfect University: Sectoral change since Robbins and into the future

Behind schedule so thought might get away with a reblog this recent post on Robbins and the future.

Registrarism

All change please! Sectoral change since Robbins and into the future

Rewriting Robbins? The very thought

I recently agreed to give a presentation on this theme at an event entitled “Rewriting Robbins” by those lovely people at SGP Martineau.

You can find the full details of the event here  and my rather fetching but nevertheless superficial parade of pictures here:

Apologies in advance

Having agreed to deliver such a presentation I quickly realized the mistake I’d made but by then it was too late. It was of course ridiculously presumptuous to undertake such an exercise and even to contemplate commenting on Robbins with the benefit of 50 years of hindsight seemed like an outrageous impertinence. So, apologies in advance for any offence caused.

There was recently a very good piece in the Times Higher on Robbins. Among…

View original post 1,935 more words

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.

24 hour study people

Food: all day and all of the night

It’s perhaps not that novel but Inside Higher Ed has a story about a small US college, Lynn University, which has introduced all-night dining to help, among other things, with more flexible class scheduling:

Lynn made the adjustment in dining hours for a pretty simple and obvious reason: administrators worried that students weren’t eating when they needed to. Athletes, working students and international students, many of whom tend to eat later, would regularly miss meals when the kitchen was only open for a few three-hour periods throughout the day.

A typical cafeteria at some other university

A typical cafeteria at some other university


Sure enough, with all-day access, students started coming in to eat later, sometimes using the cafeteria to study or socialize for hours at a time. But officials hadn’t exactly planned on what happened next: Instead of scheduling classes around when students can and can’t eat, they thought, why not get flexible?

So a two-hour 5 p.m. class that would have been unthinkable before is suddenly an option. And a popular one, at that. As the college experiments with course offerings throughout the day, it has quickly become clear that students much prefer that evening option to the early morning one.

This seems like a good idea to me and one which recognises that students may have many different preferences about when they study and eat. I suspect that more universities will offer this kind of provision, at least at exam time. However, rescheduling classes to accommodate the preferences of some for evening teaching rather than morning may not suit everyone and I suspect that not all academic staff would be wildly enthusiastic about such timetabling.

Dead wood

Not very environmentally friendly

Back in April 2008 I planted a tree at Lenton Rec as a mark of the University’s sponsorship of the park. There was lots of other activity too as part of the support for Nottingham in Bloom.

The report on the event includes a comment from the University’s Off-Camous Student Affairs Manager, Melanie Futer:

“There is a lot of pride in the fact that the Recreation Ground is a Green Flag award-winning park and our hope is that by enhancing it still further we can encourage more people to use the park this summer and in the years to come,” said Melanie.

080417 filmed for posterity webpic

Me. Beside the tree (still alive at this point) [picture from the Parkviews blog ]

The Council was equally positive:

Councillor Malcolm Wood, Chair of the Nottingham in Bloom Working Group, said: “This new sponsorship will bring benefits specifically to the people of Lenton, who live alongside many of the University’s students and who enjoy the park all year round.”

A further comprehensive report on the event can be found on the Parkviews blog 

Lenton Rec is still sponsored by the University and heavily used by students. Whilst the rest of the park looks great, unfortunately, the tree did not prosper, despite my expert digging. That was the first, and I fear the last, time I’ve been asked to plant a tree.

It is an ex-tree. It has ceased to be.

Sorry about that everyone.

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.

Netflix for University Selection?

An algorithm to help with university choice

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting report on a Netflix-like algorithm which is designed to help with selecting a university. A former admissions counsellor and now PhD student, Daniel Jarratt has been working on a tool which would help students find the right institution for them by focusing on the similarities in the choices they have already made and using this to highlight other possibilities.

College Admission Assistance | Find the Right College. Get in. Get aid. | PossibilityU

Mr. Jarratt … created an algorithm that could take several colleges and figure out how similar they are to one another and—more important—in what ways they are similar. Do they have a lower-than-average graduation rate? More than the average number of students living on the campus? Do a higher-than-average number of students study art or engineering?

Using that algorithm, he could explain what the students could not: what was it that a collection of colleges had in common. From there, Mr. Jarratt could highlight other institutions that shared some of the same attributes.

Mr. Jarratt’s algorithm is now an integral part of PossibilityU, a website that helps high-school students find the right college.

PossibilityU’s data-driven approach to college matching isn’t new, but Mr. Jarratt’s recommendation algorithm is unique. Rather than starting with a list of questions about what students are looking for, PossibilityU asks users to enter up to three colleges that they are interested in. It then spits out a list of 10 other, similar colleges to consider. A premium paid subscription allows students to compare an unlimited number of colleges and provides application deadlines and other advice.

It’s kind of like Netflix’s movie suggestions, says Mr. Jarratt, who studies recommender systems like those used by the movie service and by Amazon.

Do you like Valparaiso and the University of Minnesota? You might also like Marquette University and the University of Iowa, according to PossibilityU.

It all looks moderately interesting. Would a similar model work in the UK? Perhaps, although the range of choices is rather narrower than in the US. Nevertheless, there is certainly more than enough data out there to help this kind of approach.

Building community in university halls

Revisiting Boyer

Registrarism

Interesting ideas for growing community in halls of residence.

An interesting essay in Inside Higher Ed calls for a more ambitious concept for residential life. The argument is that halls of residence provide the ideal location for developing students’ civic learning. The benefits include preparing them for life in an ever more challenging world:

The next generation is going to inherit a world filled with civic challenges. In addition to the usual challenges of community building, they will inherit communities struggling under the weight of large social and political institutions that are not up to the task of the modern era. They also will inherit communities grappling with complex global issues manifesting themselves as local problems, including a lack of jobs, water shortages, and racial/ethnic/religious divisions.

To meet their civic responsibilities, our students will need the capacity to thrive in diverse environments, embrace change as a daily reality, think outside…

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The future of counselling?

Is online counselling the future?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a fascinating story on the introduction of an online counselling programme in Florida. Initially developed as a response to resource constraints  it nevertheless seems to have real merit:

Three years ago, facing a particularly acute demand for services, the Counseling and Wellness Center at the University of Florida managed to add four full-time positions to the existing 33. That bought the director, Sheryl A. Benton, and her colleagues just two weeks without a waiting list for appointments.

Concluding that she would never hire her way out of the problem, Ms. Benton set about to expand the center’s capacity by developing an online psychotherapy program, an approach long used and studied in Australia, among other countries.

Therapist Assisted Online, or TAO, began at Florida this past fall. Designed specifically for students battling anxiety—a primary mental-health issue on college campuses—it is the first research-supported program of its kind in the United States, Ms. Benton believes.

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It does seem to have been an extremely successful pilot:

In the pilot program, 26 students treated under TAO showed more improvement, calculated using a system called Behavioral Health Measure­-20, than 26 participants in the in-person group-therapy sessions at the counseling center. The students treated under TAO also made more progress than about 700 students receiving individual in-person therapy.cwc with building

“The results blew me away, not to mention the fact that it stunned all of my counselors, who I think are still trying to come to terms with what happened,” Ms. Benton says.

The director is the first to point out the limitations of the pilot. Both the student patients and the counselors self-selected, indicating a certain level of motivation and comfort with new technology. The pool of participants was small. Other research studies show that online patients experience results equal to those of in-person patients.

Whilst many universities in the UK will be very envious of the sheer scale of the Florida counselling operation, it does seem like a really interesting development. And, while online counselling is unlikely to replace face-to-face it may be a valuable and cost-effective additional student support tool.

The 2013 International Leadership Conference: Managing Global Universities

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

global

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.

unnc 2

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.

Yet More Information

The US seems to be following the UK’s lead

I’ve previously written about the excess of information available for prospective students in UK HE and the fact that it really isn’t a substitute for proper advice and guidance. Now The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story on plans for extra information to be provided in the US and why it may not make much difference to students’ choice of institution:

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Going to college generally pays off. But not all colleges are the same, and not all students end up at places where they’re likely to fare well.

Dropping out or overborrowing—or both—are widely recognized problems. To try to prevent them, the federal government has unveiled a bunch of new tools to give prospective students more information. College Navigator offers a trove of searchable data. The College Scorecard features comparative performance measures. The Shopping Sheet is a standardized financial-aid award format.

In August, President Obama announced plans to develop a college-ratings system. Yes, more consumer information. But it could go further, if Congress, as the administration hopes, ties the ratings to financial aid.

The plan has proved unpopular with college leaders, who seem more comfortable with information itself, sans value judgment. As one president wrote in The New York Times, “The administration should make many types of data easily available and let people rate schools for themselves.”

Several existing tools, the ratings plan, and the do-it-yourself counterproposal all boil down to disclosure. But is more consumer information enough to steer students toward better choices?

The context is a little different here though. It’s seen by some as a something of a cheap policy option and perhaps less burdensome than other forms of regulation. And as the piece says it is perhaps easier to tell people about the shortcomings of institutions than it is to fix the problems. However, the overall conclusion is, rightly, that what is really needed is not another website or additional data but more and better guidance for prospective students.