Why change management often goes wrong in higher education

“Many institutions need to streamline how they run, redefine roles and processes and adapt the technology they use to deliver meaningful transformation”

There are some significant challenges ahead for the UK’s higher education sector in 2024.

Not least, attracting and retaining quality staff, supporting students through a cost-of-living crisis, falling international student numbers and the rising cost of keeping the lights on.

To address these challenges and remain competitive, many institutions need to streamline how they run, redefine roles and processes and adapt the technology they use to deliver meaningful transformation. Without effective change management, this can be a huge mountain to climb.

There are some pitfalls universities regularly fall into when planning and implementing change at scale.

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How are universities seeking to improve international students’ learning experience?

“Universities are having to learn very quickly about their students and their needs”

The Jisc report on international students’ digital experience was a welcome publication encompassing 18 years of research, offering a wealth of invaluable insights into policy and academic literature, as well as the views, experiences and expectations from more than 2,000 students and those that work with them. 

We know that UK higher education providers need to better support international students on their digital needs to mitigate ‘digital shocks’ on arrival to the country, and it is important that we respond. So last month Studiosity ran a webinar to pick up on the key themes from Jisc’s report as well as highlight practical supportive solutions being implemented at the University of Portsmouth, University of Lincoln and Coventry University to improve the international student experience, from admission to employability.

Here are five key takeaways from the event:

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Why investing in education means investing in child safety

“70% of ten-year-olds in low and middle income countries are unable to read a simple text with understanding. In sub-Saharan Africa, that figure is 90%”

This year’s International Day of Education should be a chance to celebrate the transformative power of learning. But for too many children, access to quality education is difficult or even impossible.

The UN estimates that 250 million children and youth globally are not in school. Hundreds of millions more attend, but without adequate learning outcomes. The World Bank reports that 70% of ten-year-olds in low and middle income countries are in “learning poverty” – unable to read a simple text with understanding. In sub-Saharan Africa, that figure is 90%.

Violence against children and the threat of it are a critical factor holding back progress for educational attainment and other development goals. Around 1 billion children globally experience some form of emotional, physical or sexual violence every year. On average, up to 5% of national GDP is lost every year as a consequence of this global scourge.

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Student feedback: How can international educators increase response rates?

“It is important not to over-survey students”

Where does the responsibility lie for universities improving teaching effectiveness and student learning within international higher education?

In an era of co-creation, meaningful change cannot be achieved without listening to students. Capturing, and effectively responding to the student voice, is so important to both the academic and wider campus experience. The issue is that many students are experiencing survey fatigue and response rates are often not as high or as representative as universities would like to support institutional enhancement.

In How to Increase Course Evaluation Response Rates, Explorance shares insight from global higher education leaders who have achieved an ‘uplift’ in levels of student feedback on evaluations and their tips for increasing response rates.

The University of Louisville, University of Newcastle Australia, UNSW Sydney, University of Minnesota, and Temasek Polytechnic join UK universities in sharing their practical guidance on survey strategies. Here are five things we learned:

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Supporting the UK’s international students in finding accommodation

“It’s really important that international students know what their rights are”

Relocating to a new country to study is no small task, and there are countless things that international students have to take care of when doing so.

One of the biggest challenges facing international students in the UK today is finding accommodation, so in our various roles as teachers and education staff, it’s more important than ever that we’re able to offer support as needed.

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Turning a Soviet-era university into a leading Eurasian management school

“It’s entirely realistic to focus not only on encouraging the best Kazakh students to study inside Kazakhstan, but even on attracting international students to come here”

Nearly 32 years ago, Kazakhstan gained its independence from the Soviet Union and began building a market economy. It was a difficult transformation for our country and society — especially for our education system.

Dozens of new private, for-profit universities and colleges began operating in Kazakhstan. Existing universities had to change on the fly, adapting their educational programs to the new environment, competing with the new establishments, recruiting faculty with more up-to-date qualifications and competing internationally for both students and academics.

I have first-hand knowledge of the complexities involved in these processes. As a student, I secured a Bolashak International Scholarship — an initiative Kazakhstan launched shortly after independence to fund the sending of Kazakh scholars to universities abroad, to equip us with modern technical and managerial skills — and studied at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. Upon returning home, I worked as an administrator at one of the Kazakh universities in Astana, and then served as Kazakhstan’s vice minister of Education and Science for almost two years.

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If we neglect the complex needs of foreign students, how can UK institutions claim to be truly global?

“In order to claim we have truly global universities, we need to start proactively seeking solutions”

With another academic year now underway, a new generation of fresh-faced, wide-eyed students are filling UK lecture halls once again to embark on a new adventure.

This is perhaps especially true for international students  – who now make up nearly one third of the entire student population. Many will be coming to the UK for the first time, attempting to memorise their new timetables while simultaneously wrapping their heads around unexplained references to a weekly spectacle known as ‘Strictly’, grappling with Scouse, West Country and Glaswegian accents, and unravelling the secrets of the mythical ‘Cheeky Nandos’.

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Berry College lifts its international experiences office to new heights

“Having all of their travel documentation easily accessible helps to quickly verify when and where students are traveling”

Managing a robust study abroad program with a small office isn’t a simple task, and in today’s environment of shrinking global offices, technology support is a must to ensure student success.

Berry College, a small, private liberal arts college in Georgia, is a study abroad champion. More than 25% of Berry’s 2,000+ students study abroad while attending. But to increase the efficiency of their two-person international experiences office and have the ability to grow their programs, they needed to move from paper and Excel to an online system. Berry implemented a global engagement solution to centralize its study abroad information, showcasing their programs, enabling online applications and enabling quick access to accurate student travel information.

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Quality assurance for qualification recognition – reflecting on the implications of the Global Recognition Convention

“The diversity in quality assurance systems globally poses the question of what quality assurance should be used to inform qualification recognition”

Higher education, internationally, has been undergoing significant changes over the past 20 years. In particular, we have seen an increasing diversification of modes of delivery, including through online and blended learning, different types of international branch campuses and partnerships, articulation arrangements, short courses and work-based learning.

These developments have opened-up important opportunities to make progress towards more flexible and inclusive learning pathways, and thus in supporting the UNESCO vision captured in the Roadmap to 2030 of fostering “diversity over uniformity and flexible learning over traditionally well-structured, hierarchical models of education”.

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Navigating the intersection of international education and climate responsibility

“Central to mitigating our negative impact on the climate is open dialogue and conversation”

In today’s climate-conscious world, international education, like many other industries, finds itself at a turning point. Our sector, known for broadening global horizons, fostering cross-cultural connections and sparking intellectual growth, is facing challenges around its impact on the environment.

One of the biggest concerns is the extensive travel associated with international education, contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. From intercontinental flights to daily commutes, our sector inadvertently contributes to environmental issues.

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