Tag: Higher education

“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.

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.

Time to consider higher education during and after violent conflict

“Higher education is very rarely considered a key priority in post-conflict environments; investment in HE is commonly viewed as a luxury that war-torn societies can ill-afford”

Professor Sultan Barakat, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar and Dr Sansom Milton, is research fellow at the University of York’s Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit, write about the need to safeguard higher education in conflict regions.

The past two decades have witnessed many failed attempts to reconstruct nations in the aftermath of war. The litany of failures includes the squandering of vast resources in post-2003 Iraq and the inability to stabilise Afghanistan despite spending billions of dollars over more than a decade of intervention.

“War-torn societies have again and again been denied the opportunity to own the reconstruction process”

There are many reasons why this has been the case, but central to explaining this dismal record is the fact that war-torn societies have again and again been denied the opportunity to own the reconstruction process; to play a key role on the ground in terms of planning, designing, and implementing reconstruction policies, programs, and projects; and, most importantly, to hold national and international reconstruction actors to account.

A lack of capacity at all levels of these societies—including a shortage of appropriately qualified graduates combined with rapid deskilling (as a result of lost job opportunities) or displacement—has often provided the international community with an excuse for why the role of local actors in reconstruction is unavoidably limited.

While the skills and capacity gap is now widely acknowledged, conventional “neo-liberal” reconstruction policies—which are partly responsible for the poor record of reconstruction efforts—have not sufficiently realised the importance of higher education for redressing it. Preoccupied by issues of hard security and a multitude of short-term humanitarian challenges, higher education is very rarely considered a key priority in post-conflict environments; rather, investment in higher education is commonly viewed as a luxury that war-torn societies can ill-afford.

“For local societies to occupy the leadership role in the recovery process, a bold and transformative long-term approach to rebuilding is required—one that places HE at the centre of its agenda”

Years of study and experience have led us to conclude that for local societies to occupy the leadership role in the complex recovery process, as is necessary for its success, a bold and transformative long-term approach to rebuilding is required—one that places higher education at the centre of its agenda. Only by investing in domestic capacity building can nations meet the increased demands that emerge in the aftermath of war for skilled workers and advanced knowledge in a wide range of priority sectors for reconstruction and statebuilding, including health, engineering, education, law, and the economy.

In addition, higher education, when approached strategically, has the potential to bring divided societies together—despite their varied ethnic and religious backgrounds—to engage in critical inquiry on open and diverse campuses. Offering an avenue to constructively engage the critical age group of 18-25-year-olds is of particular value when it comes to dealing with the consequences of violent conflict in our times.

To ensure that higher education can begin to contribute towards recovery as discussed above, it is imperative that more is done to protect the sector—its scholars, students, and infrastructure—during and in the immediate aftermath of conflict. Sadly, over the past few years higher education has increasingly been caught in the crossfire of violent conflict. This trend is powerfully illustrated by the recent bombing of universities in Syria, Gaza, and Yemen; the shocking campaign of violence that claimed the lives of up to 1,000 Iraqi academics; and the tragic attack on Kenya’s Garissa University College in April 2015 in which 147 people were killed.

“It is imperative that more is done to protect the sector—its scholars, students, and infrastructure—during and in the immediate aftermath of conflict”

Effective protection is therefore vital to minimise the deleterious impact of conflict on higher education’s human, physical, and institutional resources. Some efforts have been made to protect institutions of higher education including increased physical security through checkpoints and blast-walls and enhanced policing of campuses, while international efforts have focused on rescue schemes that protect displaced and threatened scholars and students. Various global actors have also committed to protecting schools and universities from attack, including as outlined in the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict and the Principles of State Responsibility to Protect Higher Education from Attack.

Protection of higher education is preferable to costly rebuilding efforts that can take a generation to complete. Yet for many societies picking up the pieces in the aftermath of war, rebuilding higher education is a necessity.

In the case of post-invasion Iraq the higher education system was shattered—84% of universities were burned, looted, or destroyed. In extreme examples including Afghanistan and Somalia, entire higher education systems have been brought to the brink of total collapse due to protracted conflict.

“In extreme examples including Afghanistan and Somalia, entire higher education systems have been brought to the brink of total collapse due to protracted conflict”

Higher education systems are complex, multi-faceted institutions that require significant financial and technical resources, even in comparison to national primary and secondary education systems. Rebuilding and revitalising higher education in the aftermath of war is therefore a major challenge that requires a collective effort between a range of national, regional, and international educational actors.

There is a pressing need for creative thinking on how best to respond to the challenges higher education faces in conflict-affected countries and how to harness the capacity of the global sector so it can contribute toward recovery and transition

The aftermath of crises and conflicts can bring about an opportunity to reform and realise improvements during rebuilding, rather than merely restoring flawed social and economic systems. The starting point for such recovery must be a better understanding of the remarkable resilience demonstrated by academic communities throughout conflict.

The need to protect and rebuild higher education was the focus of a meeting in York in the UK jointly hosted by the Brookings Doha Center, the Institute of International Education, and the University of York this month, where leaders from across the world signed the York Accord. Under the Chairmanship of President Jorge Sampaio, participants will engage in a dialogue over how best to protect and rebuild higher education in conflict zones and how to enshrine that critical goal as a collective global responsibility. Read more about the Accord here.

The authors address the protection and rebuilding of higher education at greater length in a recent policy briefing published by the Brookings Doha Center.

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.

Hopes and aspirations: upholding the UK’s education brand

“Even my own mother called me to check that I’d not been working for what effectively had been depicted as a student battery farm”

Alex Causton-Ronaldson, Marketing & Communications Manager at the London School of Business and Management, writes on the importance of upholding the UK education sector’s reputation in the wake of the recent exam fraud scandal.

I started my life in Higher Education, like many others, as a Student Union Officer. With strong morals, ethics and ideals, I had plans to change the world from my glorified broom cupboard at the back of the campus wedged between the toilet and the canteen. Although my working situation has changed somewhat, my ideals have not.

After having spent time on the National Executive Council of NUS, you may be surprised to learn that I am now working for a private education provider. However for those of you that have yet to work outside of the public education sector, I can promise you, it’s not all that you may have thought it was. Or at least it’s not at London School of Business and Management.

“When the news broke, there seemed to be some confusion that the whole private HE sector had been abusing the ‘UK Higher Education’ brand for their own commercial ends”

With all of the current media coverage surrounding the alleged admissions malpractice of a number of private education providers, I thought I’d try and dispel the fear of impending doom that seems to come as such a comfortable bed partner to mention of private HE providers. When the news broke, there seemed to be some confusion that the whole private HE sector had been abusing the ‘UK Higher Education’ brand for their own commercial ends. Even my own mother called me to check that I’d not been working for what effectively had been depicted as a student battery farm.

The London School of Business and Management is far from that. The institution that I have recently joined is filled with staff passionate about raising aspirations of people across not only London, but the world. We are all committed not only to our students and applicants, but to the UK Higher Education brand and the thousands of professionals it represents across the sector. Not unlike countless others, regardless of the subsection of the sector you work in.

“This is a brand that is recognised the world over; the perception of a UK education being that of quality, honesty and integrity”

Across the sector, from the smallest private provider to the largest redbrick university, we have all worked tirelessly for many years (admittedly, for some more than others) to shape and deliver this incredible, inspirational and aspirational sector and ultimately; brand. This is a brand that is recognised the world over; the perception of a UK education being that of quality, honesty and integrity.

Therefore, for those of us working in marketing, recruitment and international offices, it is our responsibility to uphold the brand that so many have worked so hard to create. We therefore must, as a sector, seek to condemn those who work to capitalise from this hard work. At the end of the day, they are effectively destroying the hopes and aspirations of those who look to better themselves and their lives through higher education.

Reimagine Education: how do we measure success in higher education teaching?

“There is little doubt that the main role of higher education is to produce educated people… but its effectiveness is chronically hard to pin down”

Martin Ince, Chair of the QS Global Academic Advisory Board, writes about how we measure success in higher education teaching.

What is higher education for? The answer depends on who you ask. For researchers, universities are the place where new knowledge is generated. For politicians, they are vital sources of innovation and economic growth.

But there is little doubt that the main role of higher education is to produce educated people. Students may leave university with a degree that opens up a lucrative and satisfying profession, or they may have improved their minds rather than their earning power. They may be 21 or 91. But in either case, the key to their university experience is how well they were taught and how much they learned.

The only problem is that it is tricky to see how well this vital function of universities is being carried out. Higher education is still provided largely by “destination” universities using time-honoured teaching methods. But these techniques now exist alongside distance learning, and blended methods that use a mixture of these approaches. But whatever combination is in use, its effectiveness is chronically hard to pin down.

“This issue is especially salient for us because of the impossibility of measuring teaching and learning on a global scale”

I chair the advisory board for the QS World University Rankings, and this issue is especially salient for us because of the impossibility of measuring teaching and learning on a global scale. Even within the UK, it is captured only indirectly, by surrogates such as student satisfaction. This does not work internationally, because a course that satisfies someone in Chicago might not go down well in Seoul. And we are well aware that despite the validity of traditional methods, teaching is being transformed by new approaches and new technology.

This is why QS was delighted to back the suggestion by Professor Jerry Wind, director of the SEI Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of our advisory board, for a global competition to recognise innovative approaches to teaching in higher education.

The Wharton-QS Stars Awards 2014: Reimagine Education has assembled a distinguished panel of judges from around the world to examine evidence-based claims for innovative approaches to higher education pedagogy. They welcome evidence of distance, presence and blended approaches to teaching, from any type of institution and in any subject. There may also be awards for the top innovations in specific regions or in subject areas.

A specific feature of Reimagine Education is that entrants have to show that students feel the benefit of the innovations they have made. They are encouraged to complete a student survey to prove the claims they make for their improved pedagogy.

We are sure from the response so far that Reimagine Education is timely. Please do spread the word about it, and consider entering yourself. The inaugural awards will be presented at a major conference at Wharton in December, and publicized heavily by QS and Wharton.

There is more about the competition, and our motivation for launching it, at www. reimagine-education.com. The site also has entry details and the timetable.