31 results
Date Name

Apocalypse now?

Are universities doomed? With the apocalyptic tone to many recent pieces on higher education you could be given for thinking universities are facing imminent disaster.

The Imperfect University: Governance goings on north of the border

There seem to be governance problems all over UK higher education at the moment. Arguably though some of the biggest governance challenges are currently being faced by institutions in Scotland. One of Mike Russell’s final acts as Education Secretary in the Scottish Government was to launch a consultation on proposals for change to university governance.

The Imperfect University: Students and their Unions – Part II

Changed days indeed (As with the previous offering I suspect I’m going to be challenged on much of what follows.) Part I of these two pieces looked at the changes in the National Union of Students as it almost completely changed its campaign foci to concentrate much more directly on supporting students on local issues… read more

The Imperfect University: Students and their Unions

  Part I: How much power in the union? (I suspect I’m going to be challenged on just about every aspect of what follows.) Students’ unions and the National Union of Students, which recently celebrated its 90th birthday, have a long and distinctive history in UK higher and further education. There have been major shifts… read more

The Imperfect University: 2013 collection

  Because universities are still difficult, but still worth it With the latest post, on Robbins, we are now up to a total of 18 pieces to date in the Imperfect University series. Covering a wide range of occasionally relevant issues I do hope there is something for everyone in here. And there is a… read more

The Imperfect University: Sectoral change since Robbins and into the future

  All change please! Sectoral change since Robbins and into the future Rewriting Robbins? The very thought I recently agreed to give a presentation on this theme at an event entitled “Rewriting Robbins” by those lovely people at SGP Martineau. You can find the full details of the event here  and my rather fetching but… read more

The Imperfect University: rational admissions – it’s time for PQA

  A brighter future for university admissions? It will be some time before all of the results are in but it does look at this stage as if this year’s admissions round has been a little less turbulent than last year’s. The mood across many universities seems to be one of some relief after a… read more

The Imperfect University: Know Your History

  Know your history For my 700th blog post here I thought I would reflect on university histories. Given their nature it’s often struck me as rather surprising that universities and their staff tend not to have a well developed sense of institutional history. Research matters to universities but they tend not to prioritise maintaining… read more

The Imperfect University: The End of Internationalisation?

Is it the end for internationalization?   No. It’s not a bubble. It’s not bursting. A recent Chronicle blog suggested that, in common with some other higher education activities, internationalization was a bubble and about to burst. It isn’t. International student recruitment patterns continue to evolve, some branch campuses are less successful than others and… read more

The Imperfect University: Free Information?

Freedom of Information costs. But does anyone really benefit?   “You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it.” These are the words Tony Blair addresses to himself in his memoirs while reflecting on his government’s… read more

Good discipline?

Universities’ disciplinary records under scrutiny Some entertaining reactions to a piece in the Guardian which reported that university students had paid over £0.5m in fines in a year: Universities across the UK issued disciplinary and administrative fines totalling more than £550,000 to students last year. Freedom of information requests from the Guardian have shown students… read more

The Imperfect University: what do we know about HE leadership?

What do we know about leadership in higher education? Not a lot, seems to be the answer. I’ve written a bit before in the Imperfect University series about leadership in universities. There is a new report out which seeks to sum up what we know about leadership in HE. This report, written by Professor Jacky… read more

The Imperfect University: Truly Transnational

There is something close to a genuinely international university Last year Andrew Stewart Coats, commenting on his appointment and the interesting plans for the new partnership between Warwick and Monash Universities, asserted that in higher education: there has been little or no globalization in how we organize ourselves; no global entity runs viable universities in… read more

The Imperfect University: the first chapter

Because universities are difficult, but worth it This year there have been a dozen posts in the Imperfect University series. Covering leadership, staff mobility, regulation, governance in Scotland and Virginia, not so revolutionary online provision, the CDBU and more regulation, there was I hope something of interest for many in here somewhere. The Imperfect University… read more

The Imperfect University: How not to defend higher education

Simple: ignore administrators (or worse) The recent launch of the “Council for the Defence of British Universities” (or CDBU) offered some fascinating insights into a particular corner of British society. Like a strongly worded round robin letter to the Times made flesh it attracted some big names  from Sir David Attenborough to Baroness Deech. A… read more

The Imperfect University: the year to date

  Because universities are difficult, but worth it With the latest post, on why administrators really do matter in universities,  we are now up to a total of 11 pieces to date in the Imperfect University series. Covering leadership, staff mobility, regulation, governance in Scotland and Virginia, not so revolutionary online provision, the cult of… read more

The Imperfect University: First for the chop

The Imperfect University: Some people really don’t think much of administrators   Last year I wrote a piece for Times Higher Education on the problem with the term “back office” and the often casual, unthinking use of it in order to identify a large group of staff who play a key role in the effective… read more

The Imperfect University: Mobility Matters

  The Imperfect University: Staff getting on their bikes One of the things professional services colleagues sometimes complain about is that whereas  academic staff can be promoted in post – and indeed can progress all the way from lecturer to professor in the same academic department – they can’t. Instead to advance their careers administrators… read more

The Imperfect University: Graduation – a bit London 2012?

Graduations: A bit like the Olympics but then some Graduation is one of the most significant events in the university calendar. It is a slightly bizarre and rather ritualistic event. Everyone (well, nearly everyone) dresses up, in gowns and/or posh frocks or newly acquired suits. I have attended two of my own and over 150… read more

The Imperfect University: The Cult of Efficiency

The cult of efficiency I’ve recently been reminded about a great book recommended to me by my former supervisor, Nigel Norris. Half a century since its publication it remains a fascinating read and sits midpoint between two eras of educational change which, perhaps surprisingly, seem to have a lot in common. (Note that a large… read more

The Imperfect University: Governance challenges at the University of Virginia

University of Virginia: considerable turbulance at the top A rather topical post for the latest in the Imperfect University series. There have been some extraordinary goings on at the University of Virginia. To the surprise of just about everyone the University’s Board of Visitors (its governing body) decided two weeks ago to remove the President,… read more

The Imperfect University: the story so far

  Because universities are difficult, but worth it I’ve managed six posts to date in the Imperfect University series to date. Covering leadership, regulation, governance in Scotland, not so revolutionary online provision and more regulation I hope I’ve managed to offer something a bit more substantial here. Anyway, I’d be grateful for any feedback on… read more

The Imperfect University: Massive Open Online Confusion?

The Future of HE? Or Massive Open Online Confusion? For the latest Imperfect University piece a few thoughts on a topic which is attracting considerable comment at the moment: the growth of the Massive Open Online Course or MOOC. There has been a huge amount of hype around the new models of online provision or… read more

The Imperfect University: Do we need a level playing field?

On the issue of a “level playing field” for universities For the next, slightly briefer, piece in the Imperfect University series, I thought it might be interesting to pick on a topical issue which nevertheless has wider relevance and also serves to highlight some of the imperfections inherent in higher education. Following the White Paper, Putting… read more

The Imperfect University: Reviewing Higher Education in Scotland

Report of the Review of Higher Education Governance in Scotland  As we have seen in the previous post in this series on regulation, governments, although they will often talk the language of freedom and autonomy, cannot help but get themselves involved in the regulation of higher education. However, Scotland is different and higher education in… read more

The Imperfect University: More and more regulation

More Regulatory Woes A recent speech by the Universities Minister focused on his apparent desire to reduce regulation for institutions: “We are in a government that understands the value of autonomy,” Mr Willetts said. Mr Willetts talked about the possibility of reducing data collection requirements as well as the likelihood of universities escaping some EU… read more

The Imperfect University: who should lead universities?

Academics make the best university leaders Or do they? For the first piece in this series I thought it would be appropriate to revisit and develop a post from early in 2011 on leadership in universities. The focus here is very much on the who rather than the how of university leadership – that’s a… read more