Mobility Really Matters

The Imperfect University: Staff getting on their bikes

(an updated version of a post from a while back)

One of the things professional services colleagues sometimes complain about is that whereas  academic staff can be promoted in post – and indeed can progress all the way from lecturer to professor in the same academic department – they can’t. Instead to advance their careers administrators have to move – either elsewhere in the institution or to another university. This is often presented as a problem whereas I have to say I think it is much more of a positive position. Whilst there is something to be said for having people in post in administrative roles in central or academic departments who know their jobs inside out, who carry a sense of the institutional history and provide the continuity between rotating professors as heads of department, there is also a difficulty in such longevity in one particular role. Essentially the challenge is this – many intelligent, creative and able administrators, no matter how committed to a particular department or institution, can, unless they are given new challenges and fresh stimulus in their job, sometimes become dull, stale and bored. They may, no matter how able, become less productive over time as tedium and routine replaces challenge and excitement. I should stress that this is not always the case and is challenged as a proposition by some of my colleagues.

In my view the way to address this issue is not to argue for the opportunity for professional services staff to be promoted in role (although if their job does change radically then the regarding opportunity will exist) – this is the wrong way of approaching the matter. Rather there should be the possibility of moving staff regularly to new roles in different parts of the university to provide them with new challenge and stimulus. Ultimately this not only gives people more satisfaction in their work and makes them more productive but, because it broadens their experience too they become more employable in other roles and stand a better chance of securing a more senior role in their current or another institution.

Times Higher Education carried a piece a while ago on the development of university leaders and noted the success of the University of Warwick in this regard. One of those things for which the administration at Warwick under Mike Shattock and subsequently was famed was the propensity for moving staff around to ensure they gained new experiences and enjoyed exposure to new ideas and new work opportunities to keep them interested, stimulated and challenged. This was my experience at the University (I had seven different jobs in just under nine years at Warwick) and I found the experience hugely beneficial.

This is hard to do though. Given the structures in universities which often involve significant devolution to academic units and therefore means that administrative staff can be located in dispersed teams at Department, School or Faculty level the managed redeployment or rotation of staff can be extremely difficult to organise. Professional specialisms – in HR, Finance, IT, and Estates – make such rotation even harder although I would suggest that the previous decline of the generalist administrator has been reversed and it is perfectly possible for specialists to transfer into and succeed at more generalist roles (although rarely vice versa).

The Higher Education sector in the UK employs over 380,000 staff of whom 200,000 work in non-academic roles and professional services (HESA 2010/11 data). Whilst the career route is well defined and understood for academic staff (albeit an extremely tough profession to enter), entry to HE administration is less well defined. There is a national pay spine but grades for administrative staff vary across the sector. The entry level for graduates is generally understood but no common graduate scheme exists, unlike in the NHS which has had a well-developed national scheme for prospective NHS managers operating successfully for many years. A small number of institutions have operated local graduate trainee programmes down the years but they have not really taken off in any significant way.

In the absence of any national graduate entry programme and the challenges with managed rotation one alternative approach is to introduce a variety of work opportunities at the beginning of administrators’ careers. As well as providing a clear opportunity for entry to a career in higher education administration this was part of our motivation at the University of Nottingham for introducing our own local Graduate Trainee Programme in 2008.

An extract from the last advertisement for the programme gives a flavour of the opportunity:

This Graduate Trainee Programme offers an invaluable opportunity to prepare talented, hard-working and enthusiastic Nottingham graduates for a management role within this stimulating setting.

The programme is aimed exclusively at University of Nottingham graduates interested in developing a career in university administration. It offers an invaluable insight into this dynamic management activity whilst developing an understanding of:

  • markets
  • income streams
  • resource allocation processes
  • client bases including students, funding bodies, commercial partners and employers.

The programme offers four trainees the opportunity to experience key components of university operation and build an understanding of the institution’s strategy.

Over 12 months the trainees undertake a planned rotation of placements in different areas of the University, reporting to senior staff. Placements will be across Professional Services and Schools, and trainees may have the opportunity to work at one of the University’s international campuses in Malaysia or China.

Placement areas may include:

  • Academic Services
  • Business Engagement and Innovation Services
  • Research and Graduate Services
  • Human Resources
  • Finance and Business Services
  • Student Operations
  • Governance
  • Marketing
  • Admissions

Successful trainees will gain the transferable skills necessary to move on to positions within the University with a clear understanding of how a large university operates. Outstanding performance on the programme may facilitate a longer term opportunity at Nottingham.

This kind of programme gives trainees a wide range of experiences early, sets them up well, gives them a rounded view of university operations both from departmental and central perspectives. It also makes them extremely employable and almost all of the graduates of the Nottingham GTP have gone onto subsequent employment within the University or at other HE institutions.

Having run successfully for four years at Nottingham this model has now been adapted and developed as a national scheme, Ambitious Futures, supported by AHUA (the Association of Heads of University Administration) and now involving over 20 universities (including Nottingham) in recruiting for the 2015 intake.

The UK higher education sector really does need such a scheme and this programme is already developing a cadre of senior managers for the future who have not only undertaken a variety of roles in their home institution but have also had a range of experiences in another university too.

Excellent universities need outstanding managers who have broad experience and are able to take an institutional view where necessary. Mobility and dynamism of staff is key to achieving this and is in interest of both professional staff and their institutions. Ambitious Futures offers the prospect of achieving this in a widespread and sustainable way which can only be beneficial for universities in the UK.

 

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Graduate Programme for University Leadership Now Recruiting

An outstanding programme for graduates looking to develop careers in university management.

Recruitment for this year’s round of Ambitious Futures, the Graduate Programme for University Leadership, has recently gone live:

The university sector is one of the most innovative, vibrant and exciting environments in which to build your future career. If you’re looking for a graduate programme that leads to a highly successful and dynamic career in an entrepreneurial, global business, The Graduate Programme for University Leadership is it.

Are you ready for a career in a world of discovery?

This cutting-edge programme will show you how the challenging and stimulating business of a university operates. You’ll meet some of the most talented people in the country, if not the world, and gain an inside view into the sector’s management and business processes. A key aspect of your training will see you working alongside a diverse range of partners, from students and employers to funding bodies and commercial organisations.

It’s the opportunity to contribute to a life you have already experienced and enjoyed, and make a difference to the learning of future generations of students. What’s more, you’ll be working at the heart of fast-paced and world-leading commercial organisations that, rather unusually, are not primarily motivated by profit-making.

The University of Nottingham has run a similar programme for number of years (and indeed has played an active role in the development of this national scheme). You can find details of the Nottingham offer here.

It’s a fantastic scheme and one I’m really pleased that the University of Nottingham is part of. The sector really does need to train and develop many more professional service leaders and this programme will be a major contributor to that as it continues to grow.

Also good to see the recent book on Managing your Career in HE Administration refer positively to the value of Ambitious Futures too.

Knowing Your History

Know your history.

Given the current running of The Changing University: Inside Nottingham NOOC I thought I would reflect on university histories. Given their nature it’s often struck me as rather surprising that universities and their staff tend not to have a well developed sense of institutional history.

Research matters to universities but they tend not to prioritise maintaining their own records for future researchers. It’s possibly that universities are generally not brilliant at comprehensive record keeping because of their devolved nature and more recently because of the shift from paper to digital but nevertheless there are core records around, for example see Nottingham’s institutional collection. Plus there is enough oral history available from longer established staff to last a lifetime if you ask for it.

Anyway, my contention is that staff at every level of the University need to know more about their institution’s past.

Testing times

To make this point, a while ago I imposed a quiz on some of my colleagues about the University as it was 60 years previously. The questions included the following (and I’ve added the answers here to avoid any distress):

  • In 1950, on 11 July, we had “degree day”. How many ceremonies did we have in July this year in the UK? (Answer – 16 in the summer – but note there were more ceremonies at the Malaysia and China campuses as well as winter ceremonies)
  • How many Senate meetings were there in 1949-50? (There were seven. We now have three per annum.)
  • How many Council meetings? (There were nine. We now have six a year.)
  • In 1949-50, Council had how many members? (37. We now have 25.)
  • Senate membership? (A mere 35 members. We now have over 100.)
  • Fee for a full-time BA? (It was £31,10s, equivalent in 2013 would be £943.06.)
  • Resit fee? (10/6)

Not surprisingly they didn’t do terribly well. Even though these were the easy questions.

A new history

Recently, the University commissioned a new history primarily to cover last the 20 years or so of institutional activity and capture some of the most major changes at Nottingham, including in particular the establishment of the international campuses in Malaysia and China. We were also keen to ensure we recorded a lot of learning and information in a more comprehensive archive than would be publishable (also recognising that the pace of change and move from hard copy to electronic has made record keeping more problematic) but which would be a valuable resource for future historians.

The previous history (in two large volumes) by Dr B H Tolley covered mainly the period 1948, the year the institution received its Royal Charter, through to 1988, with plenty of material too from the earlier period of the operation of University College Nottingham since its inception in 1881.

The last history. Not very portable.

The last history. Not very portable.

Whilst Tolley’s magnum opus offered comprehensiveness it lacked a certain degree of readability. I believe there are still copies available through Amazon (although not at bargain prices).

Beyond this though there are other accounts of the University of Nottingham, its Vice-Chancellors and the estate. A previous post commented on the souvenir brochure from this event which included more details of the Trent Building design.

More books

More books

My favourite is the 1928 book (unnamed) which dates from the opening of Trent Building by King George V. A brief silent film records the event:

Nottingham’s New University

Jesse Boot, in his foreword to this 1928 publication, commented:

At the moment of the opening by His Majesty the King, when the stones of the coming University are still unweathered by time, it is difficult to appreciate the full significance of this educational development. Thousands of students yet unborn will pass along the corridors and learn in the lecture rooms, and wrest the secrets from nature in the laboratories. Their work will link still more closely industry with science, add to the honour of the City and help to increase the well-being of our nation.

The significance of this is that there is a common thread running from Boot’s original vision for the new University College through the Royal Charter to the current strategy of the University.

More landmarks

There are other important milestones in the University’s history. For example, knowing that Gandhi spoke to a packed Great Hall back in 1931 gives additional depth to our international strategy.

A good turnout

A good turnout

The visit of Einstein who, as this video recounts, delivered a spectacularly unsuccessful lecture to a mixed audience of Germanists who understood no physics and physicists who knew no German (but he did leave some interesting formulae on a blackboard):

Remembering that students campaigned very hard to secure Senate representation over a number of years in the late 1960s and that in 1968 John Dunford, President-elect of the Students’ Union (and recently awarded an Honorary Degree by the University), was the first student to address the Senate.

And of course the cultural landmark that was the first public performance by Paul McCartney and Wings back in 1972.

All of these provide context and a reminder that the success any institution enjoys today is built on the hard work, commitment and brilliance of previous generations of academics and professional services staff. It is clear from the 1928 book referring to the very early days of the University College that there were many challenges during its development:

It must not, however, be thought that the road was smooth, for the obstacles were many. Many of the prosperous bourgeois of the city were inclined to scorn the College because it appeared too democratic, while others openly scoffed at spending money on such subjects as Classics or Philosophy. But it met local needs, and students who were not confined to any special class came from the whole district.

…at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Treasury Inspectors, who had to visit the College to see whether it was entitled to a Government grant wrote that: “We think that the College exhibits the nearest approach of all Colleges which we have visited to a People’s University.”

Decisions taken by staff at all levels of our universities today are not context free. We can all learn from what went before so that we build on our history and are not trapped by it. But we do have to know it first.

Legacy

As importantly is the knowledge that part of all our jobs is about stewardship – about ensuring that the generations of students and staff who follow us are able to achieve even more by building on what we leave behind. As Alderman E Huntsman, Mayor of the City of Nottingham and Chair of the Council of Nottingham University College, noted (again in the 1928 book):

We of today owe more than we can express to our forefathers…The Council and Senate of the University College are not unmindful of their responsibilities, and assure all those into whose hands this book may pass, that they are resolved that the great ideals of Sir Jesse for a University with the complete right of self-government, and the power to shape its courses to meet the special needs of local industries and conditions, shall be accomplished to the full. The gifts recorded in this book and offered to the People’s University will assuredly bear fruit for all time.

Anyway, I’m now really excited by the prospect of the publication next year of a new history of the University of Nottingham. It’s being prepared by very wonderful and diligent Professor John Beckett of the School of Humanities and will bring things up to date as well covering some of the earlier history in outline. It will I hope also have the advantage of being highly readable, and including much more material about students and the student experience (largely neglected in previous publications) and, rather marvellously, will have pictures too.

The Trent Building

The Trent Building

But let’s leave the last word to Jesse Boot who in the 1928 book in commenting on the future history of University College Nottingham says that the final chapter is as yet unwritten but

will tell in due season how the University College won its Charter, and thus Nottingham became the seat of a great people’s University, which in each succeeding age will spread the light of learning and knowledge, and will bind science and industry in the unity that is so essential for the prosperity of the nation and the welfare of our fellow citizens.

Powerful stuff.

So, know your history.

Ghana gets tough on Honoraries

In Ghana, the Accreditation Board is “mad” at honorary degree awards

Ghana News reports that the country’s Accreditation Board is “mad” at honorary degree awards by unqualified institutions:

The conferment of honorary degrees is the prerogative of degree awarding institutions so mandated. Therefore accredited private tertiary institutions operating under the mentorship of chartered, degree-awarding universities are not qualified by themselves to confer honorary degrees. Any such institutions that do so are in contravention of Regulation 19 1 of Legislative Instrument 1984 which states that: An accredited institution shall not issue certificates or award its own degrees, diplomas or honorary degree without a Charter grated to it for that purpose by the President.

National_Accreditation_Board,_Ghana_(NAB)_logoThere are also instances where some foreign institutions confer such honorary degrees, particularly doctorate degrees on prominent personalities with intent to legitimize and popularize the operations of the institutions in Ghana, and thereby seek to attract unsuspecting students to enroll in them. The national Accreditation Board wishes to caution the general public and advise that distinguished personalities invited for such awards should verify the accreditation status and degree-awarding powers of the institutions that seek accreditation status and degree-awarding powers of the institutions that seek to confer on them honorary degrees to avoid any embarrassing fallouts.

I posed here recently about a spate of Honorary Degree revocations but the concern in Ghana seems to be more about unaccredited institutions securing undeserved credibility by inviting the great and the good to accept an Honorary.

Ghana Web’s editorial takes an even stronger position:

The quest for the enhancement of mankind’s creature comforts has driven many to crazy heights such as preceding their names with high flaunting titles. The number of those ad hoc institutions and individuals ready to assist them achieve these objectives, their quality notwithstanding, has increased exponentially.

Exploiting our penchant for such high flaunting appellations, which these institutions hardly heard of in their own countries, have constantly bestowed the useless and worthless titles to people who can pay for the service directly and indirectly.

It is lamentable that the near-fraudulent practice has gone on almost indefinitely, until recently when the National Accreditation Board (NAB) woke up from a worrying Rip Van Winkle slumber to read the riot act about the dubious conferment.

 

And as Ghana Soccernet reported:

Ex-Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah found his honorary degree wasn't worth much after all

Ex-Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah found his honorary degree wasn’t worth much after all

The National Accreditation Board has discredited the honorary doctorate degree conferred on ex-Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah by the Day Spring Christian University of Mississippi. But the board says the university alongside three others- Pan African Clergy Council and Bible College, Global Centre for Transformational Leadership and the World Council for Evangelical Clergy- is uncertified to honour prominent individuals.

So, bad news for Kwesi and others who have picked up awards from unaccredited universities. In the UK though, it doesn’t seem terribly likely that iffy institutions not on the HEFCE list of registered providers will be looking to draw attention to themselves in this way. And no-one could accuse UK agencies of a ‘Rip Van Winkle slumber’.

Graduation 2014: Latest

Updates from the Ceremonial Front Line

I recently provided a summary of a series of posts related to graduation (reproduced below):

  1. A recent post on graduation challenges including Decanal difficulties with names and a failed graduand backflip.
  2. The surprising news that swimming was not part of graduation requirements any more for one US university.
  3. The differences between a US-style Commencement and a graduation.
  4. The strange ceremonial use for a weapon at graduation – the place of the mace.
  5. And finally, Graduation as being all a bit lovely like London 2012 (if we can remember that far back).

Since then though there has been the annual Serious or Celeb Honorary Graduates post (mostly celeb as it happens) featuring some real stars such as this fine chap:

Puffed up? Moi?

He worked VERY hard for his honorary


but the key issue I felt I needed to address was this surprising news from China. The Independent reports that thousands of female graduates across China have ditched the traditional mortar board in favour of wedding dresses:

Will it catch on?

Will it catch on?

Unlike Britain, where ingrained traditions of tearful parents, gowned lecturers and celebrity speakers are all part of graduation day, in China there are fewer set in stone traditions and this has given birth to new ideas and rituals, including the wearing of wedding dresses.During this summer’s graduation ceremonies, more and more of China’s female graduates have been adorning white gowns and tiaras to pose for the all-important graduation photo.According to Liu Xiangping a student from Xi’an Polytechnic University in central China “The wedding dress makes things feel more meaningful.”

Whilst I have yet to see anyone in a wedding dress cross our platform, there have been a disturbing number of examples of this latest fashion:

Highly questionable garb

Highly questionable garb

I’m eagerly awaiting news of other graduation developments this year.

Honorary Degree: serious or celeb 2014

Who are this year’s lucky winners?

A post some time ago on Honorary Degree recipients noted that almost all of them fall clearly into one of two categories: they are either serious or celeb. Back in 2013 I provided a handy list of recent Honoraries for further analysis.

Basically, if you are a serious academic, no matter how outstanding your research, if you haven’t got your own TV series or appearing frequently in the tabloids, you really aren’t going to get the coverage. So, it does rather look like quite a few of the honorary degrees awarded this year might be for something other than sustained and outstanding achoevement in a particular field. But perhaps I’m being harsh and some of these awards are for reasons other than fleeting celebrity:

The very famous breakfast presenter Louise Minchin was recognised by the University of Chester for all of her early morning achievements.

How? Yes, Fred Dinenage got an Honorary from Southampton Solent

HOW?

HOW? (Dinenage at back left. No pipe.)

 

Cheers! Hanover College recognises Woody Harrelson for his many acting achievements.

Pele picks up yet another award, this time from Hofstra.

jeff lynne

Jeff Lynne – All his own hair

Bryan Ferry – Extraordinary that it took so long for Newcastle University to recognise the Roxy Music frontman’s genius

Jeff Lynne, of ELO fame, gets a scroll from BCU.

Placido Domingo – hitting all the right notes at Berklee College of Music
(nope, I’ve never heard of them either).

James Galway, perhaps not as famous as he once was, nevertheless gets an award from Rochester.

Not as famous as he once was

Can you guess which instrument he is famous for?

A collection of giants from the world of popular music have also been recognised by some leading institutions:

Sean Puffy Combs received a lot of publicity for his richly deserved Honorary and commencement address at Howard University.

Puffed up? Moi?

Puffed up? Moi?

Yoko Ono urges graduates “Let’s together be the metronome of our very troubled human culture or human race” after picking up her honorary.

Ricky Ross, legendary Deacon Blue frontman, picked up a degree from Abertay.

They don’t come cooler than this – LL Cool J was rewarded for his outstanding achievements by Northeastern.

Let’s rock as AC/DC’s Brian Johnson gets the nod from Northumbria.

And perhaps the most richly deserved is the honorary for Pitbull. Not before time.

Who can begrudge this award to rock titans Rush who picked up a collective award from the improbably named Nipissing University?

No time for 20 minute solos at graduation folks

No time for 20 minute solos at graduation folks

Moving on…

The University of Kent is recognising this celebrity triumvirate: Harry Hill, Sandy Toksvig and Robert Wyatt – all eminently worthy in their fields (well, Robert Wyatt for sure).

And Edge Hill has an equally impressive trio recognising Johnny Vegas, Harrison Birtwhistle and John Foxx.

 

It's a degree certificate

It’s a degree certificate. Nothing legal at all.

And then, of course, for his outstanding and lengthy football career (rather than his temporary stint as manager at Old Trafford presumably), no writs can prevent us knowing that Ryan Giggs has been awarded a degree by Bolton.

Finally, and most youthfully among this collection, Aaron Porter is to be recognised by his alma mater the University of Leicester. Perhaps more serious than celebrity this one.

So, an impressive and rich crop this year. Any exceptional awards I’ve missed out?

Betting the farm

A very big gamble

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an extraordinary piece about how one investment manager gambled away $13.1 Million of her university’s money:
cash pile

Over a series of three contracts, Ms. Prizevoits signed over more than $8-million of the 96-year-old university’s money in 2008 to a Florida-based company called Betts and Gambles Global Equities LLC, to invest in collateralized-mortgage obligations. The founder of the company, federal-court documents state, instead spent part of the money on a Ferrari, a Maserati, and real estate.B y 2010, Ms. Prizevoits had become suspicious of the investments she had made with Betts and Gambles, documents state. Even so, she made another questionable investment on behalf of Ball State, sending $5-million to a California company, Blackhawk Wealth Solutions Inc., to invest in fixed-income securities called Treasury Strips. Much of that money flowed to another company, and was then used to buy a series of real-estate properties in the Bronx, N.Y.

Really does seem bizarre that anyone would do this and that they would manage to gamble away quite so much money without anyone noticing.

I would have thought through that the name of the company might have been a pointer to the problems to come: “Betts and Gambles Global Equities” should at least have raised an alarm bell?

It’s graduation time again

It’s gown and mortar board season

grads

Students are required practice this for months before graduation

Having realised that I’ve written quite a few posts on graduation in the past, and being short of something new to say as our graduation season kicks off this week, I thought I would bring together a few recent pieces on this most special of university occasions. So, here they are, in an artificially generated order, my top 5 graduation posts of the past couple of years:

  1. A very recent post on graduation challenges including Decanal difficulties with names and a failed graduand backflip.
  2. The surprising news that swimming was not part of graduation requirements any more for one US university.
  3. The differences between a US-style Commencement and a graduation.
  4. The strange ceremonial use for a weapon at graduation – the place of the mace.
  5. And finally, Graduation as being all a bit lovely like London 2012 (if we can remember that far back).

So, do hope that keeps everyone going until I have something more original to offer.

Big bucks for students with big ideas

A big prize for University of Pennsylvania graduates

The Philadelphia Enquirer has a good story about an initiative at the University of Pennsylvania for graduates who want to change the world:

Graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a strong desire to change the world and an excellent plan for how to do it?A new Penn program may fund you.Penn president Amy Gutmann has created “engagement prizes” of up to $150,000 – $50,000 for living expenses and $100,000 for project execution – for students with the most promising plans to improve local, national, or global conditions in the year after their graduation.”We want to maximize the encouragement we can give our students who do well by doing good in the world,” Gutmann said Tuesday.

Money for something

Money for something

It’s perhaps not an entirely novel idea but the scale of it is impressive:

While other schools offer prizes, Penn’s effort appears to offer more money..”I don’t know of anything that’s even close to that big,” said Jeffrey Selingo, author of College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students and a contributing editor to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Gutmann said she wanted to create a prize on the order of the prestigious Rhodes or Marshall scholarships, and offer it in a way that gets an entire senior class from an elite university focused on civic engagement and innovative thinking. She said she knew of no other university that had created such a prize.”We want this to be something that isn’t their second or third choice, but their first choice,” Gutmann said. “I think this is going to create a cadre of students who are committed to civic engagement.”Colleges large and small increasingly are looking for ways to tie what students learn in the classroom to the real world, Selingo said. Davidson College in North Carolina, for example, offers paid “impact fellowships” to recent graduates who work with nonprofit organizations on critical health, education, and environmental issues.Penn’s new prize will pay for up to three projects per year; students can apply individually or in groups of up to three.

So, will we see UK universities trying something like this? Lots already offer small awards to current students to support good works or charitable endeavours but I’m not aware of anything on this scale. The award could be a game changer for Penn but will other students or unsuccessful competitors be resentful about the size of the pot? We’ll have to see but if they do make a real difference with the prize then we can expect that lots of others will be following suit.

Needed: More Money, Money, Money

Higher Education needs more and better fundraising. And fundraisers

A new publication from HEFCE.on developing the HE fundraising workforce:

This report was commissioned by HEFCE to address one of the recommendations in ‘Review of Philanthropy in UK Higher Education: 2012 status report and challenges for the next decade’ (the Pearce report), specifically the future development and training needs of the higher education philanthropy workforce.

More please

More please

The 2012 report showed that investment in fundraising brings results whatever the size or type of university or college. If the success described in that report was to continue, it would be necessary to have a strong and growing group of educational fundraisers who are skilled in leading development teams and working with academics and institutional leaders.

This new review on the philanthropy workforce indicates the pool of professional fundraisers working in UK higher education is too small if the ambitious targets for the next decade are to be met.

In order to attract more people to become and remain educational fundraisers, there needs to be an attractive career structure and a shared understanding of the skills and knowledge-base required to be effective at different stages of that career. This issue has guided this report: what should a career path in educational fundraising look like and how can we retain the best people?

The evidence in this review of the fundraising workforce is intended to address those questions. The arguments in favour of developing a long term view which will provide the staffing required are undeniable but nevertheless it will be challenging to deliver.

I also thought the point made about developing the next generation of fundraisers was particularly important:

Internship schemes (notably the HEFCE-supported CASE graduate traineeships) are working well as entry points and could be extended to a wider range of institutions. Top student callers, who learn their craft on university “phonathons”, are an excellent source of fundraising talent, as are others who carry out student work in development offices.

 
The numbers involved in the CASE graduate traineeship scheme remain small though and there is also a role for the Ambitious Futures programme, the wider graduate training scheme for higher education in the UK, for contributing to the development of this future pipeline of fundraising staff.

It’s an important report.

The Imperfect University: rational admissions – it’s time for PQA

A brighter future for university admissions?

It will be some time before all of the results are in but it does look at this stage as if this year’s admissions round has been a little less turbulent than last year’s. The mood across many universities seems to be one of some relief after a period of significant uncertainty. More students have been admitted than at this point last year and for most institutions (and those students) this is going to be good news

The 2012 admissions round – which coincided with the move to £9k headline fees for most instutitions – heralded major changes to the system: after years of relative stability and constrained Home/EU undergraduate recruitment targets the cap was removed for students with AAB or better at A level. This caused some significant waves across the sector with everyone seeking to find their way through this uncharted territory.
image

Part of the reason for this change was, of course, ideological. The Government’s desire to create a ‘market’ in admissions at the top end of the qualifications ladder with universities competing for the ‘best’ students resulted, perhaps surprisingly, in some significant recruitment shortfalls in a number of Russell Group universities. There were fewer AAB+ students than expected and it seems likely that some universities were taken by surprise by the challenge of operating in the cut and thrust of the market place. This, combined with a dip overall in student numbers, caused problems for many.

Into the Wild West?

In this context I wrote earlier this year of concerns about this year’s admissions and my fear that the response to these challenges would lead to an ‘admissions Wild West’ with a complete free for all in terms of recruitment and an anything goes approach to securing the best qualified students:

Last year was difficult but I’m worried things are going to be a lot worse in 2013. Those universities making lower offers are sending a signal that perhaps A–level results aren’t that important, but ultimately they are at greater risk of undermining their own competitive position by reducing entry standards in what may turn out into a ‘race to the bottom’.

So where do we go from here? In the short term we all have to play by the UCAS rules (which should be made more explicit), restate our commitment to the SPA principles and aim to be fair and transparent to applicants. This is important not just so we do the right things by students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, but also to prevent a fundamental undermining of the UCAS system.

We are keen to ensure that students who want to come to the University of Nottingham and have the grades are able to come here. This is what the UCAS system is all about: students making informed choices and a system supporting the holistic assessment of applicants in a fair and transparent way. The huge risk now is that more shenanigans this year will undermine this system.

The ultimate consequence if everyone decides to ignore the rules and the SPA principles is a return to the admissions Wild West. This would be costly, unhelpful and hugely inefficient as well as being massively unfair to and stressful for students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This surely cannot be in the interest of students or universities. Or indeed what Willetts wants. We need a bit more honesty and some genuine transparency in order to ensure fairness for all.

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It looked at first that there were going to be some significant issues what with the University of Birmingham’s decision to make 1,000 unconditional offers to students in some subject areas and much talk in the press of fee waivers, bursaries, subsidised accommodation and free ipads as incentives to potential students. Fortunately though my concerns seem to have been largely unfounded and the number of ABB+ students (the cap having been shifted to exclude a larger cohort) was roughly as expected. However, this has nevertheless been a period of significant uncertainty and anxiety, for both applicants and admissions officers.

This significant turbulence in the past two admissions rounds is of questionable benefit for applicants although the Minister is presumably content that the creation of this market is ultimately in their interest as providers compete to offer better products and better deals to these consumers. I suspect therefore this is not going to go away, at least for the foreseeable future, and universities will be obliged to operate in this exciting market environment.

Fit for purpose

Given this I would argue that now is the time to ensure the core elements of the system are fit for purpose – to make certain that we have a stable admissions model which works in the interest of applicants and institutions whilst acknowledging that ministers will inevitably want to play at the margins. We do though need to limit the scope for unhelpful interference, address the core principles for fair admissions as set out by SPA (Supporting Professionalism in Admissions), ensure universities can’t subvert or game the system, seek to secure proper information advice and guidance for applicants and address widening participation needs. The route to achieving this would mean change for all parties but I would suggest such change will be in the long term interests of everyone.

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Fundamental to this is moving away from admissions based on predicted grades to a system of admission on the basis of grades achieved, ie post-qualification admissions (PQA). This has been proposed previously and historically there have been many objections – especially around exam board marking arrangements and universities’ teaching timetables. Whilst solutions to these have become feasible they have been replaced by new concerns particularly around fairness to applicants, information, advice and guidance provision and ensuring wider participation.

Back in 2011 UCAS undertook a review of admissions processes which recommended a number of modest changes to procedures but backed away from endorsing the most significant change, a move to PQA:

There was a widely held view that, in principle, a post-results system would be desirable. Aspects of the proposal for application post-results were attractive to some, but it is clear there are too many systemic problems with the post-results proposals to support implementation.

Respondents felt that applying with results would not necessarily support applicants aspiring to the most competitive courses and concerns were raised about potential negative impacts on widening participation and less well-supported applicants. Loss of teaching time, the impact on standards of achievement, the potential for a more mechanistic approach to the assessment of applicants and the lack of time and resources to provide IAG at critical points were also major concerns.
In the review many detailed objections were raised to PQA but each of these can be overcome in practice if the will is there.

Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS, commented on the latest position in the Times Higher:

…Ms Curnock Cook had a “word of warning” for universities cheered by the better figures.

“This year you’ve managed to get more [students] in at 18,” she said, but added that “you might pay for it” in 2014-15 because there would therefore be fewer 19-year-olds to recruit in that cycle.

Ms Curnock Cook also remarked that the clearing process was no longer used to recruit “the dregs” any more, and speculated that it could even remove the need for an admissions system based on students’ actual, rather than predicted, grades.

“Every year I get asked: isn’t it now time to go for a post-qualifications applications [system]? My answer is that we already have PQA: it’s called clearing,” she said.

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I disagree with this view. If we were designing a system from scratch we really would not start with the idea that students should apply to university with predicted rather than actual grades. The current set up, whilst historically understandable, is logically indefensible. Academic qualifications are the primary indicator of capability to pursue a course of study. It is logical, fair and sensible to put them at the centre of the admissions process and this should be the basis for our national application system, run by UCAS.

Time for change

The time has now come for change. The starting point should be to decide that we are going to introduce PQA from, say, 2019 entry, and the challenge then is to create the conditions within which this will happen.

Whilst I fear it is inevitable that ministers will introduce more changes – if we establish clearly now how admissions will operate in future this will bring lasting benefits and reduced the potential impact of future ministerial tinkering. Stability in the admissions system will be helpful to HEIs but will also work in the interests of applicants, ensure proper attention is paid to widening participation and be fairer.

So, let’s go for post-qualification admissions. Now is the time to decide to make the change to PQA.

University of Nottingham: Gig central

The University has hosted some impressive acts down the years.

It has been quite a long time since the University of Nottingham hosted really big bands. But the history, mainly from the early 70s before the advent of the Boat Club and Rock City, is surprisingly impressive:

Some gigs took place in the Sports Centre, others in Portland. Some other star performers included:

Rod Stewart
Cat Stevens
Mott the Hoople
The Incredible String Band
The Who
Yes
Jethro Tull
The Strawbs
Can
Gong

By AVRO (Beeld En Geluid Wiki - Gallerie: Toppop 1973) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Slade!

And some performances resulted in live albums including from

John Martyn
Soft Machine
Fairport Convention

They fitted in pretty well

We also had

ELO
Roxy Music
The Kenny Ball Orchestra
Wishbone Ash
Lindisfarne
Rory Gallagher

And slightly more recently:

The Damned
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Human League
Squeeze
Dr Feelgood
Simple Minds
Siouxsie and the Banshees
The Cure
Japan

All the big names

Plus:

Cast
808 State
Carter USM
The Levellers

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And some even bigger names

Perhaps the biggest gig at the University was the historic first performance by Wings in the Portland Ballroom. Details of this occasion have previously been published on a University of Nottingham blog

Songkick has a pretty good list of gigs too. But fails to mention Gary Glitter’s show.

Are there any that anyone remembers from this list or that aren’t included here? I’m imagining that Strawbs gig was something special.

 

 

Slade picture:  By AVRO (Beeld En Geluid Wiki – Gallerie: Toppop 1973) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Graduate Programme for University Leadership

An excellent programme for graduates looking to develop careers in university management.

Recruitment for the Graduate Programme for University Leadership has recently gone live and the pitch is a good one:

The university sector is one of the most innovative, vibrant and exciting environments in which to build your future career. If you’re looking for a graduate programme that leads to a highly successful and dynamic career in an entrepreneurial, global business, The Graduate Programme for University Leadership is it.

Are you ready for a career in a world of discovery?

This cutting-edge programme will show you how the challenging and stimulating business of a university operates. You’ll meet some of the most talented people in the country, if not the world, and gain an inside view into the sector’s management and business processes. A key aspect of your training will see you working alongside a diverse range of partners, from students and employers to funding bodies and commercial organisations.

It’s the opportunity to contribute to a life you have already experienced and enjoyed, and make a difference to the learning of future generations of students. What’s more, you’ll be working at the heart of fast-paced and world-leading commercial organisations that, rather unusually, are not primarily motivated by profit-making.

The University of Nottingham has run a similar programme for number of years (and indeed has played an active role in the development of this national scheme) and you can find details of the Nottingham offer here.

It’s a great initiative and one I’m really pleased that the University of Nottingham is part of. The sector really does need to train and develop many more professional service leaders and this programme will be a major contributor to that as it grows in future years.

The Imperfect University: Know Your History

Know your history.

For my 700th blog post here I thought I would reflect on university histories. Given their nature it’s often struck me as rather surprising that universities and their staff tend not to have a well developed sense of institutional history.

Research matters to universities but they tend not to prioritise maintaining their own records for future researchers. It’s possibly that universities are generally not brilliant at comprehensive record keeping because of their devolved nature and more recently because of the shift from paper to digital but nevertheless there are core records around, for example see Nottingham’s institutional collection. Plus there is enough oral history available from longer established staff to last a lifetime if you ask for it.

Anyway, my contention is that staff at every level of the University need to know more about their institution’s past.

Testing times

To make this point, a while ago I imposed a quiz on some of my colleagues about the University as it was 60 years previously. The questions included the following (and I’ve added the answers here to avoid any distress):

  • In 1950, on 11 July, we had “degree day”. How many ceremonies did we have in July this year in the UK? (Answer – 16 in the summer – but note there were more ceremonies at the Malaysia and China campuses as well as winter ceremonies)
  • How many Senate meetings were there in 1949-50? (There were seven. We now have three per annum.)
  • How many Council meetings? (There were nine. We now have six a year.)
  • In 1949-50, Council had how many members? (37. We now have 25.)
  • Senate membership? (A mere 35 members. We now have over 100.)
  • Fee for a full-time BA? (It was £31,10s, equivalent in 2013 would be £943.06.)
  • Resit fee? (10/6)

Not surprisingly they didn’t do terribly well. Even though these were the easy questions.

A new history

Recently, the University commissioned a new history primarily to cover last the 20 years or so of institutional activity and capture some of the most major changes at Nottingham, including in particular the establishment of the international campuses in Malaysia and China. We were also keen to ensure we recorded a lot of learning and information in a more comprehensive archive than would be publishable (also recognising that the pace of change and move from hard copy to electronic has made record keeping more problematic) but which would be a valuable resource for future historians.

The previous history (in two large volumes) by Dr B H Tolley covered mainly the period 1948, the year the institution received its Royal Charter, through to 1988, with plenty of material too from the earlier period of the operation of University College Nottingham since its inception in 1881.

The last history. Not very portable.

The last history. Not very portable.

Whilst Tolley’s magnum opus offered comprehensiveness it lacked a certain degree of readability. I believe there are still copies available through Amazon (although not at bargain prices).

Beyond this though there are other accounts of the University of Nottingham, its Vice-Chancellors and the estate. A previous post commented on the souvenir brochure from this event which included more details of the Trent Building design.

More books

More books

My favourite is the 1928 book (unnamed) which dates from the opening of Trent Building by King George V. A brief silent film records the event:

Nottingham’s New University

Jesse Boot, in his foreword to this 1928 publication, commented:

At the moment of the opening by His Majesty the King, when the stones of the coming University are still unweathered by time, it is difficult to appreciate the full significance of this educational development. Thousands of students yet unborn will pass along the corridors and learn in the lecture rooms, and wrest the secrets from nature in the laboratories. Their work will link still more closely industry with science, add to the honour of the City and help to increase the well-being of our nation.

The significance of this is that there is a common thread running from Boot’s original vision for the new University College through the Royal Charter to the current strategy of the University.

More landmarks

There are other important milestones in the University’s history. For example, knowing that Gandhi spoke to a packed Great Hall back in 1931 gives additional depth to our international strategy.

A good turnout

A good turnout

The visit of Einstein who, as this video recounts, delivered a spectacularly unsuccessful lecture to a mixed audience of Germanists who understood no physics and physicists who knew no German (but he did leave some interesting formulae on a blackboard):

Remembering that students campaigned very hard to secure Senate representation over a number of years in the late 1960s and that in 1968 John Dunford, President-elect of the Students’ Union (and recently awarded an Honorary Degree by the University), was the first student to address the Senate.

And of course the cultural landmark that was the first public performance by Paul McCartney and Wings back in 1972.

All of these provide context and a reminder that the success any institution enjoys today is built on the hard work, commitment and brilliance of previous generations of academics and professional services staff. It is clear from the 1928 book referring to the very early days of the University College that there were many challenges during its development:

It must not, however, be thought that the road was smooth, for the obstacles were many. Many of the prosperous bourgeois of the city were inclined to scorn the College because it appeared too democratic, while others openly scoffed at spending money on such subjects as Classics or Philosophy. But it met local needs, and students who were not confined to any special class came from the whole district.

…at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Treasury Inspectors, who had to visit the College to see whether it was entitled to a Government grant wrote that: “We think that the College exhibits the nearest approach of all Colleges which we have visited to a People’s University.”

Decisions taken by staff at all levels of our universities today are not context free. We can all learn from what went before so that we build on our history and are not trapped by it. But we do have to know it first.

Legacy

As importantly is the knowledge that part of all our jobs is about stewardship – about ensuring that the generations of students and staff who follow us are able to achieve even more by building on what we leave behind. As Alderman E Huntsman, Mayor of the City of Nottingham and Chair of the Council of Nottingham University College, noted (again in the 1928 book):

We of today owe more than we can express to our forefathers…The Council and Senate of the University College are not unmindful of their responsibilities, and assure all those into whose hands this book may pass, that they are resolved that the great ideals of Sir Jesse for a University with the complete right of self-government, and the power to shape its courses to meet the special needs of local industries and conditions, shall be accomplished to the full. The gifts recorded in this book and offered to the People’s University will assuredly bear fruit for all time.

Anyway, I’m now really excited by the prospect of the publication next year of a new history of the University of Nottingham. It’s being prepared by very wonderful and diligent Professor John Beckett of the School of Humanities and will bring things up to date as well covering some of the earlier history in outline. It will I hope also have the advantage of being highly readable, and including much more material about students and the student experience (largely neglected in previous publications) and, rather marvellously, will have pictures too.

The Trent Building

The Trent Building

But let’s leave the last word to Jesse Boot who in the 1928 book in commenting on the future history of University College Nottingham says that the final chapter is as yet unwritten but

will tell in due season how the University College won its Charter, and thus Nottingham became the seat of a great people’s University, which in each succeeding age will spread the light of learning and knowledge, and will bind science and industry in the unity that is so essential for the prosperity of the nation and the welfare of our fellow citizens.

Powerful stuff.

So, know your history.

‘University of Nike’ in Oregon

A huge investment in university sport.

 

The New York Times has a report on the opening of a hugely expensive new facility to enhance the University of Oregon’s football programme. It comes courtesy of a sizeable donation from one of the founders of Nike.

The Football Performance Center, which was unveiled publicly this week, is as much country club as football facility, potentially mistaken for a day spa, or an art gallery, or a sports history museum, or a spaceship — and is luxurious enough to make N.F.L. teams jealous. It is, more than anything, a testament to college football’s arms race, to the billions of dollars at stake and to the lengths that universities will go to field elite football programs.

The performance center was paid for through a donation from Phil Knight, a founder of Nike, an Oregon alumnus and a longtime benefactor of the university. During a tour of the complex Wednesday, university officials declined to give a dollar figure, even a ballpark one, insisting they did not know the total cost of a football center where even the garbage cans were picked with great care to match the overall design. (Early design estimates placed the center’s cost at $68 million, which, based on the tour, seemed conservative.)

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The tour lasted more than three hours and covered the full 145,000 square feet of the complex (with 60,000 additional square feet of parking). Nike and its relationship with Oregon are obvious early and throughout. One small logo outside the Ducks’ locker room featured the university’s mascot, wearing a top hat adorned with a dollar sign. Oregon football is often viewed through that lens by outsiders, who derisively have christened Oregon as Nike University.

A video is available here which gives a flavour of this extraordinary facility. The characterisation of the college football competition as an arms race seems particularly apposite. This level of investment for just one sport at a university is breathtaking.

Go Ducks!