Events, dear boy, events

For this inaugural post in the Team Wonkhe blog, I want to shed some light on recent developments in the Wonkhe ‘offer’ and how events, in particular, fit with the overall Wonkhe mission to improve the quality of higher education policy making. On Monday 4 July, we hosted – jointly with the serious data wonks at HESA – an event in support of the agency’s consultation on the destination of leavers survey.

At the University of London’s Senate House we convened 170 delegates, mostly from careers services and planning offices across UK universities, to chew over the options available for the survey, and more broadly what it means to measure ‘graduate outcomes’. How do you capture graduateness? You can read about it on the accompanying live blog, if you’re interested and also search for the #NewDLHE hashtag to see the debate it the Twittersphere.

And, well, that’s the point. Events, for us at Wonkhe, must be in themselves intellectually robust and significantly contribute to the debate at hand and feed the sector’s debate – much of which takes place on one of our blogs. Attendance at events gives participants the opportunity to consider the topic in depth, to network with peers, and to ask questions, so it’s not that we would simply host closed-door events and then write them up. The event is simultaneously an end in itself and the means to support other ends.

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What did we learn from our first major event? First and foremost, we learned what a pleasure it is to work with HESA, to partner with an organisation with a mutual interest in supporting a healthy debate on a topical issue. We also learned about the deficiencies of online booking systems and the limitations of sound systems. Overall, feedback we received has been positive, though there are some areas for improvement and we can work on those for the next time. We’re also grateful to EMSI for its sponsorship.

That next time will be fast upon as we move swiftly to our event on the impact of the EU membership referendum on UK higher education. We’re anticipating another good turnout, more healthy debate, and further material we can share with the whole of the Wonkhe community through blogs. And hopefully, too, we’ll have ironed out some of the niggles from event number one. At the very least, we will try never host an event quite so early on a Monday morning…

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