Category: Higher education

How can universities enhance the experience of their international students?

“International students spend most of their time outside the classroom. We can’t leave that experience to chance”

What are the challenges and what are universities doing to make sure they meet the needs of their overseas cohort? These were some of the questions asked at Universities UK’s conference on Enhancing the International Student Experience.

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Beckie Smith is senior reporter at The PIE News and manages The PIE Blog. To get in touch, email beckie[@]thepienews.com.

“Perhaps the scales are tipping”: women in UK HE senior leadership – a personal perspective

“I firmly believe that if I had stayed in India, I would not have achieved what I have managed to here in the UK”

Sonal Minocha, pro-vice chancellor for global engagement at Bournemouth University, writes about her experience of being a woman in a senior leadership position, and how her experience might be different if she’d stayed in India.

This tweet, the data it highlights, and the very persuasively presented blog, together made me think – perhaps consciously for the first time – of how privileged I am to be a product of UK Higher Education. My career, both as a student and a staff member, has thankfully defied the allegations and statistics that this article summarises.

So let me give you my personal context – I am Indian by origin – born and brought up in Delhi, and my first time away from India was as an international student to Newcastle in 2001. I am (or at least was then) very much a migrant, a foreigner, an ethnic minority!
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Sonal Minocha is Pro-Vice Chancellor for Global Engagement at Bournemouth University.

Road to enrichment: ensuring students are accepted into top universities

“Universities want graduates to be well-rounded, highly employable human beings. All top HE institutions ask for evidence of ‘supercurricular’ activity”

Bellerbys College is a GCSE and A Level college with four campuses in the UK. Here Kevin Brady writes about the importance of enrichment programmes and his own experience looking at the student response to extracurricular programming at Bellerbys.

Universities want graduates to be well-rounded, highly employable human beings. All top HE institutions ask for evidence of ‘supercurricular’ activity – we call it ‘enrichment’.
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Kevin Brady is enrichment programme manager at Bellerbys College Brighton in the UK.

Thinking about the wider dimension of internationalisation

“It’s clear that too often internationalisation within our universities is too narrowly defined as the inward mobility of international students, and then generally only for the economic benefit they bring”

Vincenzo Raimo, pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading, reflects on conferences he has attended, and asks what higher education leaders can do to broaden their perspectives on internationalisation.

The recent International Higher Education Forum was a mix of the practical: how to develop partnerships in India; the commercial: how to segment your student recruitment markets and improve return on investment; together with a dash of inspiration towards the end of the day from Professor Bertil Andersson, President of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, who is able to “smell” the success of his strategy by walking around his campus and by speaking to his very international mix of staff and students.
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Vincenzo Raimo is pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading in the UK.

Global risk: universities need to be better prepared

“From terrorism to transnational crime, epidemics to extortion, censorship to cyber security, there has never been a more dangerous time to venture abroad”

Brett Bruen is a former director of global engagement at the White House and US diplomat, and is now president of the consulting firm the Global Situation Room. Here he writes about why universities should take the risks of travelling seriously so they can better protect their students and staff overseas.

The murder of American student Nohemi Gonzalez, during the terrorist attacks in Paris last fall, was a tragic reminder of the risks of studying and researching abroad today. Sadly, those risks are no longer remote. Indeed, they’re regular and rising. From terrorism to transnational crime, epidemics to extortion, censorship to cyber security, there has never been a more dangerous time to venture abroad. Unfortunately, the response by most universities to these threats remains woefully outdated and inadequate.
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Brett Bruen was director of global engagement at the White House and spent twelve years as a US diplomat. He is now president of the consulting firm the Global Situation Room and an adjunct faculty member at the Federal Executive Institute.

Brexit might not deter students, but it could devastate global faculty and research

“The lifting of the cap has inadvertently made international strategies more real – at least when it comes to student diversity. Would a so-called Brexit end all of that? I don’t think so”

The lifting of the cap on student numbers at UK universities led many institutions to rethink their recruitment and internationalisation policies, with many putting greater efforts into recruiting students from within the EU than before, writes Vincenzo Raimo, pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading. Here he looks at how this has led to growth in European student numbers, and asks: how would this change if the UK were to leave the EU?

The focus of the majority of UK university international strategies for the past 20 years or so has been fee income growth. Constrained within a highly regulated system with strict limits on domestic students, the only way universities could grow was to recruit (unregulated) international fee paying students. As well as adding to the diversity of our universities and the quality of student experience, these international students brought income which allowed our universities to grow and develop, appoint new faculty and build new and better facilities.
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Vincenzo Raimo is pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading in the UK.

How important are international students to Australia’s universities?

“The prosecution respectfully presents as evidence recent shenanigans purporting to be informed policy debate about university funding, with a starting point of 20% reduction in government contributions”

Stephen Connelly, director of GlobalEd Services, a consulting firm specialising in international education and internationalisation, challenges the claim that Australian universities are too dependent upon the revenue international students bring.

Discussion about the significance of international students for Australian universities often centres around their revenue contribution, and the risk associated with maintaining or growing enrolment levels in a system with a greater proportion of international students than almost any other in the world.[1] This ignores the importance of international students in classrooms and on campuses around Australia, bringing different perspectives and helping local students develop a global mindset, including for about 15% of local students participation in overseas mobility programs.

Acknowledging the need for a more comprehensive appreciation of Australian universities’ internationalisation programs, this article continues the focus on enrolment and revenue, to clarify the extent of the reliance or otherwise of Australian universities on international students.

Each year, Australian universities report enrolment and revenue data to the Department of Education and Training. This data set is a rich source of information about enrolment, revenue, academic success and attrition rates. Of specific interest are proportions of students who are international, proportion of revenue sourced from international students, and academic success of students. 2014 enrolment data are now available, with finance data released around November each year.

In 2014, 24.3% of students in Australian universities were international.

Proportions of University Students who are International – all Modes

2014 24.3%
2013 24.3%
2012 25.2%
2011 26.7%
2010 27.4%
2009 27.6%
2008 27.0%
2007 26.1%
2006 25.9%
2005 25.3%

Proportions here include students studying outside Australia, either online, at branch campuses or in offshore partnership programs.

In 2014, 18.7% of university students studying onshore in Australia were international. Recently, growth in international students has not kept pace with growth in domestic students.

Proportions of University Students who are International – Onshore

2014 18.7%
2013 18.3%
2012 19.1%
2011 20.6%
2010 21.3%
2009 21.1%
2008 20.3%
2007 19.4%
2006 19.1%
2005 18.6%

Open Doors and OECD data show that Australia’s proportion of international students compares with 17% in the UK, 16% in Canada, and 4.2% in the US.

In 2013, 16.3% of total revenue at Australia’s universities came from international student tuition fees.

Proportion of revenue from international students

2013 16.3%
2012 16.4%
2011 17.5%
2010 17.6%
2009 16.7%
2008 15.5%
2007 15.0%
2006 15.0%
2005 15.2%

Does 16.3% represent unhealthy over-reliance? I don’t think so. There is risk involved in managing any revenue source. Far worse to be over-reliant on government revenue. The prosecution respectfully presents as evidence recent shenanigans in Australia purporting to be informed policy debate about university funding, with a starting point of 20% reduction in government contributions. Give me business risk any day.

“Does 16.3% represent unhealthy over-reliance? I don’t think so. There is risk involved in managing any revenue source”

Finally, international students commencing bachelor degrees in Australian universities in 2014 passed 85.2% of what they attempted in first year, higher than domestic students (83.4%), the third year in a row that international students have bettered their domestic peers. Australian universities pay attention to the academic success of international students.

 

[1] Australia in 2012 had the second highest proportion of international students among its undergraduate population of any OECD economy, behind Luxembourg.

Is it time for Gilligan II?

“The target for the UK’s market share proposed by the British Council in 2000 was 25% by 2005 – a fantasy figure which just didn’t see the competition coming”

Universities’ international marketing strategies have no doubt grown smarter in the 15 years since an influential report on the subject was published, writes Vincenzo Raimo, pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading – but as competition stiffens and the challenges facing UK HE change, is it time for a new one?

It’s been 15 years since Professor Colin Gilligan published his report for the British Council on international marketing and student recruitment practices within UK universities. The Gilligan Report challenged UK universities to professionalise their marketing activity and to meet the opportunity of growing international student intakes.
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Vincenzo Raimo is pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading in the UK.

Public-private partnerships and all that

“We are in the midst of a widespread exercise in innovation, adaptability, and resilience”

Dr William Lawton, outgoing Director of the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (OBHE), shares some insights on public-private partnerships (PPPs) in higher education in the wake of a successful event on the topic.

‘If PPPs are the answer, what was the question?’ That was one question tackled at the Observatory’s latest conference, ‘The future of public-private partnerships in higher education’, held on 3-4 December at Regent’s University London (incidentally a private but not-for-profit institution). Presentations can be seen here.

Why now? Part of the context is the view, among the new for-profit players, that public-private partnerships in higher education are under-analysed and under-reported. Other parts of the backdrop are international competition, the demand for education by older students, skills deficits in many countries, and funding cuts – all of which render unsurprising the increasing role of private actors in higher education. What may be more surprising is the diversity and sophistication of approaches that now join ‘traditional’ universities and the for-profits.

“International competition, the demand for education by older students, skills deficits and funding cuts all render unsurprising the increasing role of private actors in higher education”

We were reminded a number of times, including by Doug Becker, head of Laureate Education worldwide, that public-private partnerships have long been part of higher education: from catering to computing to payrolls to residences to security services. In this sense, the Observatory and i-graduate – and our parent company Tribal Group – are well-integrated parts of this PPP service-provision scene.

Professor Susan Robertson from Bristol reminded us of the pedigree of public-private partnerships in the 1990s: as a less-in-your-face privatisation after the first (Thatcherite) wave of 1980s privatisation. PPPs, under the label of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), emerged as a way of funding and running public infrastructure projects with private capital. The stated aim was to increase accountability and inject private-sector efficiencies into public spending; the unstated one was to lessen government debt in the public accounts by shifting the debt to future generations. PFI was started by the UK Conservatives but warmly embraced by New Labour. PFI projects emerged in all areas of public service (health, schools, transport, even defence) in the UK, Australia and such jurisdictions of fiscal propriety as Spain, Greece and Ireland.

The brief recap of PFI is worth recounting in order to stress that the business models described by Doug Becker and the other for-profits represented in the conference programme (Kaplan, INTO, Study Group, Navitas and Pearson) were as distant as one can imagine from a political accounting wheeze to make government inefficiency look less inefficient. One intent of the meeting was to evaluate the differences in approach between these companies, but all of their approaches are premised on understanding the cultural gaps between universities and their private partners. They do recognise both the ‘peril and potential’ for traditional universities and actively accommodate the means by which universities must protect their reputations (by controlling student intake, for example).

“These experiments have no time or space for a clumsy dichotomy of ‘public good, private bad’ – or the other way round”

Such awareness and self-awareness was characterised by Bob Hogg from Warwick as ‘institutional emotional intelligence’. Paul Greatrix from Nottingham described how their branch-campus partnerships had infused the university with a profoundly more entrepreneurial culture. What emerged at the conference is that we are in the midst of a widespread exercise in innovation, adaptability, and resilience. These experiments have no time or space for a clumsy dichotomy of ‘public good, private bad’ – or the other way round.

Former Vice-Chancellor Professor Roger King, member of the Higher Education Commission (which in November published its report on the financial sustainability of higher education in England), in fact argued that the public-private dichotomy is meaningless in any case, because the legal status of universities is either that of a person (pre-1992) or ‘quasi-private’ (post-1992). His take on regulation and the appropriateness of ‘risk-based quality assurance’ included the provocative assertion that the new private providers are subject to closer monitoring because of an assumption, at the agencies, that they are less familiar with the regulations and therefore a higher risk. A safer assumption would be that the for-profits know their regulatory environments inside-out. An article based on his presentation is here.

In the UK, knowing your regulatory environment means having to learn new tricks every month. During the conference, the Home Office distributed further proposed changes to a Tier 4 guidance for sponsors document published just the week before. It is not clear precisely what motivated this latest broadside from Croydon but base politics is never far away and it is always just possible that shady practices and non-compliant operators are working to undermine civilisation as we know it. The proposed restrictions on operating pathways arrangements and ‘satellite campuses’ (eg. London branches of UK universities) were so radical as to be interpreted by universities and their private partners as a bewildering attempt to close down these parts of the sector. The dismay was such that it is unlikely to proceed, but Merry Christmas anyway and expect redrafted guidance in January.

“It is always possible that shady practices and non-compliant operators are working to undermine civilisation as we know it”

One delegate claimed that the conference was an important milestone in discussing PPP models and applications, and it was in keeping with the Observatory’s tradition of matching intellectual nourishment and analysis with the how-to approach of practitioners.

The conference closed with a wrap-up of risks and rewards, during which the idea of risk-based quality assurance was challenged, and universities reaffirmed a positive view of the for-profits. The withdrawal of the state from higher education funding in a number of countries does suggest that its ideal as a public good is being challenged. But the PPP responses to a culture of scarcity in fact demonstrate a determination to keep that ideal alive.

Read more coverage of the event on The PIE News.