Thursday, October 29, 2009

Keeping our universities special - Surviving and thriving in a turbulent world

A link to an interesting publication by PA Consulting Group, which looks at the potential future for universities, and lays down their thoughts.

The starting point is a University-centric model of HE - a "producer-led, self-defined model has been sustained largely on its own terms by generous public funding and protection by statutory powers and regulations. And it has worked extraordinarily well, educating generations of national leaders in every field and sustaining the UK as a global engine of scientific and intellectual progress."

Four themes are presented that are undermining or inexorably changing this current position:
  • the expanding economy of knowledge
  • the rise of new competitors meeting the demands for knowledge
  • the advance of information technology
  • the change in public policy
It is proposed that currently universities are built on 7 major building blocks
  • organisation
  • products
  • delivery
  • quality
  • brand
  • governance
  • economics
Each of these is subject to change from the 4 themes, and the paper concludes with a different seven building blocks-
  • organised for solutions
  • co-creation of learning
  • lifelong learning relationships
  • knowledge "kite-marks"
  • recognition of achievements
  • optimised portfolio value
  • governance of results
The paper concludes with "What is needed now is for the sector to transform itself from without, from the outside-in, while remaining true to its defining values of independence and learning. It is some challenge."

This is really worth a read - it distills many of the things we think of when considering where Universities, including ours, are going, and provides interesting pointers for future development. The institutions that do mange to transform themselves over the next 5 years will be the ones to reap rewards in the area in which they have chosen to specialise, the ones that continue to do just as they always have (particularly in the "new" university sector) will be flailing or even failing.

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