HESPA Conference 2020 – Day 1 AM

It’s 2020 and I’m dusting away the cobwebs from this site and attempting to live blog the HESPA 2020 conference. I’ve joined the Data and Analytics Directorate at Jisc where we are mid-restructure with a proposal to divide things up broadly into Product Development, Product Delivery, Data engineering and organisational support functions. All very exciting and with a far stronger focus on the development and delivery of data derived products and services for the education sector. We’ll be sure to make a big splash about that once we’re operational, but for now, I’m here in Birmingham surrounded by the hugely well respected Planning Community. I’m looking for intelligence on pain points and opportunities, new ideas for products and services and hope to meet experts who might want to co-design solutions for the education sector. We’ve got a strong track record in Agile development and we want to apply this to rapidly deliver benefits to our stakeholders.

Welcome and introduction – Professor Sir David Eastwood
A great romp through student and research funding trends, recent high impact national policies and initiatives (such as TRAC, the demise of HEFCE, HERA, internationalisation and cross subsidising into research from overseas countries) and a tongue in cheek dig the Data Futures Programme.
What do Vice Chancellors want / need from their Planners?
Universities are strong on data, weak on management information. Planners have a really important role in assisting Vice Chancellors in

  • Robust and meaningful data
  • Compliance
  • |The ability to evaluate reports
  • Policy and political sophistication
  • Early warning
  • A presence in the VC office
  • For both scale and capability.

    We must be much more strategic and better understand where every pound goes in our Research, striving for excellence.

    The cost of all this (according to UEA) could be an extra 300K for an HEI. Cost benefits of enhancing the planning function will differ across Universities. Stripping out duplication eg in Benchmarking could drive down costs and there are other structural opportunities to reduce costs. Good investment in good planning and good data should exceed the investment of 300K.

    QR remains important and is something Jisc might explore with partners on behalf of the sector.

    Balancing online and physical delivery in light of space constraints is a key opportunity and is difficult to get right. High quality provision and service is expected from students so partnerships for delivery is seen as an opportunity for platform and content. Distance learning must be properly costed and built into the appropriate strategies including income generation and profit and loss.

    Plenary 1.1 – University Governance then and now – Nick Hillman (HEPI), Bee Morgan (Lancaster University SU), John Rushforth (Committee of University Chairs), Helen Thorne (UCAS)
    Introduction from the HEPI Chair
    The last 5 years have been the busiest every for Higher education policy and political (7 ministers in 6 years with a cabinet reshuffle imminent)

    Student numbers – high demand but new caps?
    Augar and fees – not dead yet
    Research funding – more money but spent how? Effect of Brexit
    Internationalisation – better rules but what? Risk of Home office treating immigration purely as a risk
    Quality / value – how do we answer reasonable questions?

    Indication of measures in use – but are they all rubbish? So which should we be using? What role and effectiveness of QAA?

    So what about governance? HEPI have a publication on this comparing other approaches but falling short of recommendations.

    There was a cracking presentation from Bee about the =role of student union in university governance. At Jisc we have a strong track record in student involvement in innovation and am sure will continue to do so.

    John Rushforth
    1. Sustainability
    Beyond just the balance sheet, into Green (Jisc used to host the Green Gown awards for IT with UCISA), recruitment (Jisc has just launched its Workforce Explorer dashboard suite – Planners would do well to take a look at this as it will remove effort duplication and is priced incredibly competitively), disruption of PESTLE stuff to the operating model of our Universities
    2. Reputation
    Easily damaged but what exactly is it? Performance and assurance to Vice Chancellors that their university is performing optimally (clearly a role here for those dashboard suites and broader products and services Jisc Data Analytics directorate are developing. Risks such as failure of a trusted partner, institutions failing students through for example BAME attainment gap, local communities, poor educational choices (Jisc are key partners in the Career Explorer initiative that successfully shared data across UCAS, HECSU and HESA) prototyping insights to assist in educational pathway and career choices). Behaviour and culture of the organisation and the role of governance
    3. Governing body itself
    Role has been one of accountability receiving reports and asking questions. This needs to broaden. Tap into the wealth of talent of the Board. It can act as a link to other ideas and suggestions that we haven;t capitalised on in the past. The change in academic nature of the institution. Development and support for the governing team (Jisc runs a future leaders programme)

    Helen Thorne (UCAS)
    Speaking as independent governor at University of Northumberland and school governor.
    Three impoartant thinhs
    1. Diversity in all its forms is more important than ever in governance so background, skills, experience, age. Knowledge of disruption, international voices etc
    2. Training and ongoing support for governors
    3. Transparency and engagement

    Plenary 1.2 Forward thinking for 2020 and beyond Diana Beech, Head of Government affairs, University of Warwick
    Previous policy adviser to four Universities Ministers in just two years. This meant no substantial changes although the OfS took its full regulatory powers in 1 August 2019 under the HERA 2017.
    Ministerial steers
    1. Damian Hinds – focus on quality
    2. Sam Gyimah – focus on students
    3. Chris Skidmore – Focus on A&P
    4. Jo Johnson – safeguarding the sector / international focus
    5. Chris Skidmore – focus on science and R&D



    Ideas about new policies….
    1. More on quality
    2. Stronger focus on place / region
    3. Internationalisation
    4. Push for more on R&D

    How should the sector react?
    Make the most of Brexit certainty
    Prepare our wish lists (budgets / Comprehensive Spending Review
    Strengthen regional relationships – role here for Jisc perhaps?
    Show a united front as a sector
    Demonstrate different types of (cultural, social, economic) value
    Make visible improvements (grade inflation and unconditional offers)
    Work with government agenda – they are here for 5 maybe even 10 years
    Reconnect with the public (biggest challenge – a big them and us divide eg Brexit views, 70% of people did not know Universities do research, 50% of public have never set foot in a university)

    We are sitting on a 18 year old population boom (England only)


    So PLAN FOR GROWTH! Infrastructure, digital and HE workforce pipeline

    Accelerated degrees and apprenticeships may become more important.

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