The almost universal pressure on higher education within the developed world has been on my mind recently. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the dramatic changes being faced by the UK HE sector – a situation in which, for the first time in years, our partner universities are being made to feel the pressure.
In two moves the UK Government has signalled an intent to expose the sector to the full force of consumerism and for the most part UK universities appear ill equipped to respond. The removal of the cap on recruitment of AAB students and the 8% quota reduction at universities charging more than £7,500 pa is going to make the next recruitment year is interesting to say the least.
There will be winners and losers and of course lots of change, but I’m not sure we’ll end up with a better sector. Some universities will thrive, others will have to focus on their teaching mission and realign their staff and operating models to the reality that only world-class research can be subsidised through student fees.
Higher education is going to have to demonstrate its effectiveness and efficiency to a doubting Government and general public. In future university contracts and staffing structures will be geared to deliver value for money, quality and strong student experience; staff will be subject to ever-greater levels of transparency and accountability. The introduction of the ‘core’ and ‘margin’ model will mean that middle-ranking universities have to innovate and find new ways to nurture their brand and protect market positioning. It is these institutions that face the sternest of market tests and will have to ‘come out fighting’ and innovating to preserve their status and futures.
Only time will tell where this leads, but our pathway sector appears to be faring pretty well regardless. Viewed together, the UK and US INTO centres are busy through the summer and prospects for September are encouraging. Despite the uncertainty following the UK Government’s Tier 4 student visa reforms, enrolments have held up and are tracking ahead of target. The US centres have enjoyed a bumper year with numbers exceeding targets significantly, and we welcomed our first students to China through our developing partnership with Dalian University of Finance and Economics.
Despite the changes going on around us, the international education market continues to expand rapidly with more and more students demanding access to world-leading universities. This is good news for INTO, and if we stay on course while the sector adjusts, our position as a problem-solving partner of choice for universities should be surer and more widely recognised than ever in 2012.
Author: Andrew Colin
Andrew is INTO's Chairman.